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Hundreds can hook up to natural gas this summer

IGU North Pole facility.jpg
Interior Gas Utility
Interior Gas Utility's North Pole facility

As natural gas capacity improves in the Fairbanks/North Pole area, more residential customers can heat their homes with it. The Interior Gas Utility is having a series of town-hall meetings, starting tonight at the North Pole Library , to answer questions about how it could work.

There are 70 miles of natural gas pipe in the North Pole area and hundreds more in Fairbanks. Elena Sudduth with Interior Gas Utility says it is ready hook up hundreds more customers this summer.

“North Pole has 70 miles of main lines as well as 150,000 gallons of storage in the storage tanks with only 130, some customers connected to the system right now. So, there's plenty of availability and plenty of supply for others to connect this summer,” she said.

The utility has capacity for 3,000 customers in North Pole and another 8,000 in Fairbanks.

IGU is holding a series of meetings in neighborhoods where natural gas is available. Sudduth says residents can find out how they might hook up to a main gas line and what kind of financial assistance is available to convert from oil or wood.

It is difficult to calculate how much a household might save by hooking up to natural gas. Sudduth says there is a short training at tonight’s town hall meeting that takes factors into account such as how old the house is, how well it's insulated, when the last energy retrofit was done. She recommends people bring their recent oil bills.

“But most of our customers use oil before they turn to natural gas. And so knowing how much oil someone has used in the past year can help with the calculation,” she said.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough taxpayers own Interior Gas Utility, which is positioned in the summer of 2022 to subsidize installation costs of a gas line between a house and the main line.

“100 feet of main line costs, the utility somewhere between $2,500 to $8,000. And we only charge a commercial customer $350 and a residential customer $225,” she said.

And other financial incentives could be on the horizon. On the agenda at this week’s Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly worksession, is resurrecting the oil-to-gas trade-out program. In just six months in 2020, the borough gave out a million dollars to compensate homeowners switching from oil-fired furnaces to cleaner-burning natural gas.

Sudduth says now there is more money to re-start the program.

“Fairbanks North Star Borough allocated $1,000,000 dollars out of their ARPA funds, their coronavirus relief funds, into the resurrection of the oil-to-gas program. Last time this program was alive, they gave $7,500 to each customer who does a new boiler or a new furnace and $2,500 for someone who converts their boiler from an oil to a gas burner," she said.

IGU is planning to add 600 new service lines this summer.

There are more town-hall meetings coming up in neighborhoods where gas is available: on March 21 at Noel Wein Library, on March 28 at Anne Wein Elementary School, on April 13 at Ladd Elementary, April 20 at Hunter Elementary School, and April 26 at Woodriver Elementary School. The meetings are scheduled from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., with a presentation at 6:00 p.m.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.