Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – Business Quarterly: More people are looking for alternative energy solutions amid rising electricity and heating prices

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With increases in home heating costs already hitting consumers and the cost of electricity set to more than double for Eversource customers in August, more people than ever are turning to alternative energy sources, according to local suppliers and installers.

But ongoing employee shortages and supply chain issues may mean a long wait for those ready to make the leap to a new renewable energy system for their home.

Eversource has been approved for an energy service rate of 22.566 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, from August 1 through January 31. This is a 112% increase in feed costs over the previous rate, according to the utilities. Commission.

This means for the average consumer, who uses about 650 kWh per month, an increase in the monthly bill from about $145 to about $222, an increase of 53%.

Home heating costs are also on the rise. According to the Energy Information Administration, at the end of March, the value of heating oil was $5.20 per gallon. This compares to a cost of $2.82 the previous year and a value of $3.32 per gallon at the start of 2022.

With the expected increases, more and more people are interested in renewable systems.

Greg Blake, owner of Peterborough-based South Pack Solar, said it has reached full capacity for solar installations in recent years and this year is expected to be its busiest yet. He said there has been an increase in the number of people interested in solar battery storage systems, to have access to electricity even when the grid is down, such as during blackouts.

Blake said its supply chain has remained “surprisingly stable”, but the price of modules has recently increased, due to an investigation into some Chinese manufacturers suspected of trying to avoid US tariffs by shipping their modules via countries where the tariffs are lower. These modules were pulled from the market and other Asian manufacturers raised their prices due to the scarcity.

While solar panel supplies have been steady, albeit more expensive, Blake said, there has been a shortage of electrical equipment supplies.

Blake said these changes will mean new customers are likely to face increased costs over the next few months if they buy a solar panel – up to 10%. But he added that due to the expected increase in electricity costs for most consumers, there will also be greater savings.

Mark Froling, owner and president of Froling Energy in Keene, which specializes in full-service biomass boiler systems that use wood chips and wood pellets instead of fuel oil or propane, said the company is busier than ever, with an increase of 20 or 30%. in recent surveys.

Froling Energy primarily focuses on large systems for commercial businesses, municipalities or school districts, so they often work on a schedule of over a year between that first call and installation, while cities go through a budgeting or town meeting cycle, Froling said. But the company is already fully booked for the next nine months and expects installations until next spring, which he says is not typical.

“We’re in high demand right now,” Froling said. “It’s a bit of a panic, and we’ve seen it before – in 2008 and 2010, during the last energy crisis, when we saw costs of $4 or $5 for fuel oil. It looks like this.

A biomass system, like many renewable energy systems, has an upfront cost, but results in lower energy costs in the future. For large entities, these savings can be significant and, with increases like those expected this year, exponentially worse than for residents.

Froling said he saw this potential boom coming and the company tried to prepare, including working around ongoing supply chain delays.

“We are trying to get more supplies, and it is difficult at the moment. It’s taking longer than in the past, but we’re just trying to prepare more in advance and have more parts in stock,” Froling said. “Most items have a wait time of around four weeks, but there are some smaller industry-specific items where the wait time can be up to 20 or 40 weeks.”

Froling said he was also trying to hire three additional workers, to return to a pre-COVID staffing level of 15 employees, although he said that had been a challenge.

Dan Weeks, vice president of business development at Revision Energy, which installs solar pumps, heat pumps and electric vehicle charging stations, said the company also plans to add a significant number of employees this year to meet the increase in demand.

“We’re definitely seeing that increased demand,” Weeks said. “We would love to be able to get a call and show up the next day for a site inspection and design, but that’s just not possible with the current level of demand. We are planning site visits in a few months and installations will start in the new year. »

Weeks said Revision, which has five branches in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, is currently hiring for 30 positions across the corporate spectrum, but with a strong lean toward commercial positions, including installers, electricians and apprentice electricians. These positions all represent new growth for the company over the past year, Weeks said, with the goal of growing the company to a total of 400 employees.

“We want to be able to hire fairly quickly,” Weeks said.

Weeks said the cause of the delays was mainly due to high demand and the current lack of manpower to meet it, although he also said there had been problems obtaining custom electrical equipment. .

While solar represents the bulk of Revision’s business, Weeks said demand is up for all of their technologies, especially public electric vehicle charging stations and solar panel battery systems. .

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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