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Natural Gas Vehicles Provide Two Years Of Savings


Savings in fuel costs and maintenance are among the positives, two years after Energy Pensacola and Emerald Coast Utilities Authority teamed up on a compressed natural gas program.

“Today is a big day for Pensacola,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, speaking in 2012 at the opening of the first CNG fueling station on Pine Forest Road in 2012. “We’re not just opening a natural gas fueling station. We’re embarking on a new energy future for our community.”

A second station was built later on Copter Road in the Ellyson Industrial Park. They’re part of a ten-year agreement between the utilities. ECUA’s Jim Roberts says they began saving money on fuel from the get-go.

“From 2012 to 2013, we saved our customers $1.1 million in fuel costs; diesel fuel compared to CNG,” Roberts said. “We just closed out our fiscal year 2014, and posted $1.3 million of fuel savings to our customers.”

The CNG program also has brought more than $350,000 in maintenance savings. That money goes from the garage to reductions in ECUA customers’ bills. And as ECUA keeps moving away from diesel trucks, Roberts says that’s expected to increase.

While diesel fuel generally ranges from $3.50-$4.00 per gallon, an equal amount of CNG is currently $2.05. That’s the same price as when the first CNG station opened in Pensacola two years ago. Among the projects moving forward, says Pensacola Energy General Manager Don Suarez, is increasing the number of stations and the capacity of existing ones.

“But of course, the need has to be there,” said Suarez. “The real focus is with fleet applications, like concrete trucks, garbage trucks. Because you really need a vehicle that travels a lot every day, to make up the additional difference in the cost of the vehicle itself.”

What’s going on with CNG in Pensacola is not happening in a vacuum. ECUA’s Jim Roberts has delivered addresses on the program at conferences around the nation – including the recent meeting of the American Public Gas Association in Lake Tahoe.

“Our story, and the way that we’re using our fleet, and the way that we’re saving our customers money, is a model case,” said Roberts. “A lot of utilities are watching us now, they want to know how we’re doing it, and we have a great story to tell.”

ECUA operates and maintains 88 vehicles – from passenger cars to heavy trucks in what Roberts calls the largest public CNG fleet in Florida. That number is projected to rise to 100 later this month, and to 130 vehicles by October of 2015.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.