The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced last weekthat it would require interruptible natural gas customers tomaintain a seven-day supply of alternative fuels on site, orthrough a firm contractual arrangement. The action will help tomake energy prices in New Jersey a little less volatile going intothe heating season, the BPU said.

Following the lead of the state of New York, which imposed a10-day supply requirement on interruptible customers in August, theNew Jersey Board passed the measure because of concerns about gassystem reliability and to curtail the impact that interruptiblecustomers have on the demand and pricing of fuel oil during thewinter heating months. Interruptible gas customers are normallyindustrial plants, cogeneration facilities and large commercialsites, which, when taken off of natural gas, can put a strain onother energy sources such as home heating oil. In its ruling, theboard was also concerned that higher fuel oil prices this wintermight cause interruptible customers to ignore stop notices, andcontinue to burn natural gas.

“I think that it is a very positive first step. I don’t think itcomes close to ultimately addressing the impact that interruptiblecustomers cause by spiking the prices of heating oil, but it issignificant that for the first time the state of New Jersey hasrecognized the contributing role that they [interruptiblecustomers] play,” said Eric DeGesero, executive vice president ofFuel Merchants Association of New Jersey. “I would prefer to see nomore interruptible service offered, and make them all go firmbecause of the impact that they have.”

DeGesero explained that the interruptible customers were turnedoff and forced to use other sources such as heating oil for threeweeks last winter. That played a contributing role to the highheating oil prices that created hardships to NJ homeowners. “Theaverage residential heating customer takes about 1000 gallons [ofheating oil] a year. These firms are taking in one day, theconsumption of 20 or 30 homeowners a year,” he said.

Alex Steis

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