Low oil and propane prices make it more difficult for gas to expand service areas in New England


New England is getting another break on heating oil prices this winter, with potential savings of hundreds of dollars per customer, providing breathing room for a region with some of the nation's highest energy costs. But some officials worry lower prices will lead to complacency on efforts to improve efficiency.

Low oil and propane prices already have made it more difficult for gas distribution companies that are trying to expand their service areas in the region. Sales of energy-efficient automated pellet furnaces also have flagged because of lower oil prices.

"It's been a slow year for getting residential customers to convert," said Peter Bottomley, of Maine Natural Gas, which expects customer growth this year of 4 percent, compared with 15 percent the year before. "Residential homeowners are willing to wait until the moment when they can see instant savings."

Oil prices cratered late last winter, providing an unexpected windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars to energy consumers in New England, where the number of homes using heating oil ranges from 32 percent in Massachusetts to nearly 70 percent in Maine, the state that's most dependent on heating oil. (by David Sharp, Associated Press, Via ABC News)