Unitil, the largest natural gas provider in Maine, is launching a new kind of gas expansion program in an effort to bring gas to more customers in Saco with no up-front cost.
The new program, approved earlier this year by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, is the first of its kind in the state. Rather than ask prospective customers to pay an up-front conversion cost for the expansion, the new "Targeted Area Buildout” or “TAB” surcharge would make the conversion cost part of a new customer’s monthly heating bill. For a residential heating customer, the surcharge would be approximately 12.8 cents per ccf.
Based on current heating costs, new Saco customers connected under this program would see an additional savings compared to all other heating options available.
“Unitil has long been committed to bring gas to more customers in Maine, but doing so in a responsible way that assures the cost of gas remains affordable for all,” Todd Black, Unitil Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Customer Relations said. “By removing the up-front cost to customers for this buildout, our hope is to lower the barrier for conversion and give more customers in Saco the opportunity to switch to a cleaner, cheaper heating option.”
This new buildout would begin as early as this spring and includes portions of Route 1 in Saco, as well as along Industrial Park Road. Unitil worked with both state and city officials to tailor this new expansion to the needs of Saco, a growing community that has shown high interest in bringing gas to a larger part of its community.
“Unitil has been great to work with throughout this process,” Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said. “We are excited about the opportunity to give our residents and businesses natural gas as a heating option, and to make Saco a more desirable destination for new businesses to develop.”
Unitil sees the Saco expansion as a pilot and would consider similar expansion programs in other parts of the state based on its overall success in bringing new customers online.