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Archive for the ‘Vermont Heating Oil’ Category

How to Get Off the Oil Price Roller Coaster

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

If we’ve learned anything in the first 16 years of the 21st century, it’s that expecting the unexpected is the best way to plan for the future.

If that sounds a little scary, let’s consider heating oil prices. Who would have guessed two years ago when prices were heading towards $4.00 a gallon that we’d now be looking at prices averaging just over $2.00? As a fuel oil dealer, we welcome the budget relief that low prices offer customers, but want to be sure we (and our customers) think a bit about some of the challenges that this extreme volatility can bring.

Source: Tradingeconomics.com

In Vermont, the good news is that fuel prices are currently averaging 19¢ a gallon below the same month of 2015. The bad news is that we’ve seen a steady price increase since March.

Source - Vermont Fuel Price Report, Vermont Department of Public Service

It’s easy to point to several factors that could affect heating fuel prices as we get closer to the cold winter weather:

  • Some weather experts are predicting the that end of the strongest El Nino in recorded history has started to make a transition into a La Nina-like state which could mean colder than average temperatures and more snow in the Northeast this winter. This is a welcome relief for those Vermonters that depend on the snow for recreation or livelihood, but a potential problem for those of us who will use more heating oil.
  • The presidential candidates have adopted different positions for and against climate change action that could eventually trickle down to affect gasoline and heating oil prices.
  • A recent New York Times article quotes OPEC sources who are speculating that a global output freeze could take place in September, when most members, plus non-members such as Russia, are expected to attend an International Energy Forum meeting in Algeria.

What can we do now to help protect our household budgets from future price increases? To use a sports metaphor, “our best defense is a good offense.”

  1. Do everything you can to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce the amount of heating fuel you use. Even simple things like adding insulation and regular heating system tune ups can make a big difference.
  2. Consider harnessing renewable energy sources to heat your home and provide your hot water. Rooftop or in-ground solar along with a cold-climate heat pump is a great choice that is becoming more and more popular.
  3. Sign up for price protection to lock in today’s low prices for the rest of the season. Combine this with a budget payment plan and you’ll eliminate those nasty mid-winter surprises when your oil usage spikes during a cold snap.

At the Energy Co-op, our goal is to help our members use less fossil fuel and save money. Don’t let the fuel price roller coaster leave you at the station. Call us today for a free home energy review or to schedule your pre-winter system tune up.

 

Don’t Let Low Fuel Prices Fool You

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

If you’re the type of person who just went out and purchased a large SUV because gas prices are flirting with $2.00 a gallon, don’t read this. On the other hand, if you see low energy prices as an interesting opportunity, read on.

Everyone who drives a car or heats their home with oil, propane or kerosene is aware that prices have dropped dramatically since last year. There are many factors effecting current low oil prices. These include sustained high output from OPEC nations, the ability of American frackers to cut costs and maintain output, and lower demand from China. Like all complex international issues involving markets and energy, it’s anyone’s guess as to when prices will rise again – or whether they have further to fall.

The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association has published these numbers for average Vermont fuel prices as of the end of August, 2015 compared with those of a year ago:

Type of Fuel

Aug 2015

Aug 2014

Change

No. 2 Fuel Oil

$2.45

$3.59

-31.92%

Kerosene

$3.01

$4.10

-26.64%

Propane

$2.30

$2.81

-18.15%

Reg. Unleaded Gasoline

$2.64

$3.66

-27.88%

Diesel

$2.96

$4.01

-26.33%

As an energy efficiency advocate and heating fuel supplier, the question on my mind is, “Will lower home heating costs discourage homeowners from investing in energy saving improvements for their homes?” After all, we’ve all got plenty of things to spend our money on!

We suggest that it makes the most sense to take the money you’re saving on your energy bills and invest it in ways that make those savings permanent. If you do so, you’ll be protected from future price spikes, cut your carbon emissions and make your home more comfortable as well.

A good place to start is with an energy audit from the Co-op. For only $100, we complete a thorough assessment of your home’s energy use, insulation levels, heating system and appliances and provide a written report with our recommendations for saving money and cutting your fossil fuel use.

Fossil fuels are not the only energy source that costs less these days. There’s more good news for homeowners interested in powering their homes with renewable energy. According to a 2014 report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency, electricity from biomass, hydro, geothermal and onshore wind are all competitive with or cheaper than electricity from coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support, and despite falling oil prices. Solar is leading the cost decline, with module costs falling 75 per cent since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar falling 50 per cent since 2010.

The bad news is that this also means many current state and federal subsidies and rebates may be phased out, discontinued or not renewed when they expire. The 30% federal tax credit for solar expires at the end of 2016, for example.

The Energy Co-op’s always urges homeowners to start with an energy audit. After that, our approach is three pronged:

  • First, and most important, we make sure that the home is safe and healthy, free from mold, risk of carbon monoxide leaks and things like asbestos and vermiculite. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 400 people in the U.S. die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that in 2011, faulty heating equipment was implicated in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires.
  • Second, we focus on energy and money saving improvements like stopping drafts and adding insulation.
  • Third, we look into alternatives or replacements for old, wasteful boilers and furnaces.

Our main point is, don’t go the SUV route and rush to purchase a gas-hogging vehicle while gas prices are low, only to regret your decision when prices go up. Instead, take advantage of low energy prices to create a safer and more energy-secure home.

We believe that there has never been a better time to invest in efficiency improvements. Right here in Vermont rebates and incentives are still available – and we’re told that winter – and home heating bills – are on the way!

 

Why should home heating fuel dealers help homeowners use less fuel?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

As homeowners embrace energy efficiency and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for heating their homes, heating fuel dealers have an opportunity to move to a new, more profitable business model . This new model is designed to  offset lower heating fuel revenues by offering new efficiency services and products.

According to statistics compiled by the Thermal Efficiency Task Force , heating oil usage in the average Vermont home has declined from a high of 1,400 gallons per year in 1973 to a low of 764 gallons per year in 2011.  We see a similar trend with Energy Co-op members. After allowing for changes in winter weather, our members and customers have cut their oil use by an average 23% over the past 13 years.  Good for the planet, not necessarily good for business.

What are the key steps that fuel dealers must take to capture the opportunity within this shrinking market? The new model builds on the trust that fuel dealers have established by providing their customers with reliable fuel deliveries and 24/7 service for their heating equipment. This gives fuel dealers a competitive advantage for offering new services, provided some key strategies are in place:

Partnerships are key

The Vermont Public Service Department has supported the creation of the Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN) which encourages strategic partnerships between members of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Efficiency Vermont, and Home Performance Contractors. The Efficiency Excellence Network is designed to encourage fuel dealers and home performance contractors to work together to promote energy efficient equipment, energy audits and home energy upgrades.

As a founding member of EEN, the Energy Co-op now partners with several home performance contractors to make efficiency improvements in members’ homes.

To promote these partnerships, the Vermont Public Service Department worked with CEDF (Clean Energy Development Fund) and VLITE (Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity) to create the Heat Savers program to provide funds to support up to $7 million in low-interest financing of clean energy measures. The Heat savers program is available only to EEN members working with Opportunities Credit Union and VSECU to offer attractive loans to their customers.

Opportunities and challenges for the new fuel dealer business model. 

Changing consumer behavior is never an easy task. Neither is it easy to change the way fuel dealers do business. But both are critically important to grow the home performance and energy efficiency sectors of the Vermont economy and cut our carbon emissions.

Fuel dealers must find innovative ways to expand their offerings in a wider competitive environment that includes electricians and HVAC contractors.

According to the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, only 28 of the 47 home heating fuel dealers within a 50 mile radius of Burlington offer heating system service and installation. This is clearly points to the opportunity for expansion.

Roadmap to new business model

We are fortunate that Vermont’s policies and programs provide support to utilities and fuel dealers that want to innovate. To capture new business opportunities fuel dealers should:

  • Create or build service departments that serve as a resource (consultant/coach) for questions about heating system efficiency. Be sure that the people staffing this department are not just reacting to problems, but are also recommending pro-active solutions.
  • Use National Oil Heat Research Association (NORA) certification to support service technician training and build consumer confidence.
  • Create working partnerships to finance and install energy efficiency improvements. For example, the Energy Co-op of Vermont has completed 40 energy audits since the spring, resulting in home energy upgrades for 17 customers. It’s a modest but important beginning.
  • Offer high-value incremental services such as heat pump installations, BioHeat deliveries, pellet heating equipment, solar hot water heaters, and other clean technologies.
  • Provide easy-to-access information (across multiple communication channels) for turn-key financing options, rebates and incentives.

The Energy Co-op of Vermont has embraced many aspects of this new business model since its founding in 2001, combining our role as a fuel supplier with a sustained campaign to educate our members and build their understanding of the value of all kinds of energy efficiency services. We realize that the ability to offer effective, comprehensive solutions will depend on maintaining strong partnerships, providing great service and continuing to earn the trust and confidence of our members.

 

Heating and Fuel Assistance for Energy Co-op of Vermont Members

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Vermont’s famous January thaw is done. The February freeze appears to have set in … perhaps a bit early! The last week has seen the lowest temperatures of the heating season. And that means heating bills are on the rise. We don’t like to see anyone trying to get through the winter without staying warm enough. So every year, the Energy Co-op works with several state agencies, as well as other organizations to help more than 170 Co-op members who may be challenged, financially or otherwise, to stay warm all winter long.

Every heating season we deliver more than 90,000 gallons of  kerosene and heating oil to the Energy Co-op’s members, in large part, with funds provided by Seasonal Fuel AssistanceCrisis Fuel AssistanceGlobal PartnersCitizens Energy and the Co-op Oil Bank.  For every $12 Co-op membership, we put $2 into the Co-op Oil Bank to help pay for fuel oil deliveries and heating services for Co-op members having trouble paying their bills.

Of course, if your heating equipment isn’t working, then fuel assistance won’t do much! Furnaces and boilers need regular maintenance and servicing to operate efficiently. If you’re having trouble paying for maintenance or a repair on your furnace or boiler, help is available from Crisis Fuel Assistance, the Weatherization Program and Efficiency Vermont.

And even if fuel is in the tank and the heating system is working properly, many Vermont homes are leaky and poorly insulated.  This means money is literally going out the chimney! Fortunately, Vermont’s Weatherization Program helps low-income Vermonters by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Weatherization typically produces energy savings of at least 30%. According to a recent report by Vermont’s Thermal Efficiency Task Force (TETF), a typical Vermont household could save $1,000 a year with the completion of proper weatherization techniques, such as adding insulation, sealing air leaks, and replacing or repairing heating systems.

The Energy Co-op of Vermont is also proud to offer Free Home Energy Check Ups for our members. This is a great, simple way to see how efficient your home is. If you or someone you know needs financial help with a fuel delivery, repair or maintenance issue, or weatherization, please call the Energy Co-op at (802) 860-4090 or visit any of the resource links above.

Member: Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Renewable Energy Vermont, Local First Vermont

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