Although Mississippi has about 10,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, some rural residents want to heat their homes with natural gas, which is generally cheaper than other methods but not widely available in the state.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission hopes to start tackling that issue with the recent creation of a Rural Access to Natural Gas working group.
The working group, to consist of staff members from each commissioner’s office, general commission staff members and energy companies, is tasked with eyeing which policies, procedures and potential financial resources could best increase access to natural gas in rural parts of the state.
Eventually, the commission hopes to form guidelines for which rural access projects would result, commissioners said this week, in “sound economic and investment decisions” for the commission.
Commission Chairman Brandon Presley, of the Northern District, said recently more than 3,600 people since 2014 have asked the commission about expanding natural gas services to more remote areas.
In one case, Presley said a Toccopola resident paid $1,000 in heating costs one month using propane, when a natural gas system would have required $250 in heating costs that same month.
“Can that be replicated everywhere? I don’t know, but we ought to try,” Presley said.
Presley said the important thing is to give Mississippi households the power to choose which energy source would best fit their home and needs.
Sam Britton, the Southern District representative, said running distribution lines to remote areas also has a cost that must be taken into consideration.
The policy being formed would guide the commission on how to dole out those services, if at all, he said.
“Most everybody that doesn’t have it pretty much wants it,” Britton said. “We’re trying to get the policies and procedures in place so that when it does come up, we have the criteria to move down through. It would be impossible to get it out to everybody in a short period of time.”
Around the country, more than 10 percent of households rely on oil or propane for home heating, while almost 85 percent heat with natural gas or electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The working group will start presenting its ideas to the commission around Jan. 1.