When it comes to heating and powering the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors, natural gas is where it’s at: That’s the message ONE Gas’ Emily Reh is sharing all over the country, as well as right here in Tulsa.
In Oklahoma, multi-family units have primarily been developed as all electric, explains Reh, the director of market development and customer programs for the Tulsa-based natural gas utility with assets throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. However, she says natural gas is not only more efficient, but also more reliable, as evidenced by the recent polar vortex that impacted electricity in the southern U.S.
Households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and clothes drying save an average of $879 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications, according to the American Gas Association. Reh says homes with an “energy choice” — as opposed to homes that are solely electric — also have higher resale value, which benefits single-family developers.
But there are financial incentives for multi-family developers, too. ONE Gas’ multi-family reimbursement program reimburses developers and builders up to approximately $4,000 per unit for the venting and the piping costs associated with installing natural gas in each unit. “With that financial incentive on top of our energy-efficiency rebates for gas appliances, it makes a multi-family development with both natural gas and electricity comparable (cost-wise) to an all-electric development,” Reh says.
In 2019 Tulsa-based Rose Rock Development Partners renovated the 93-year-old Adams Building, 403 S. Cheyenne Ave., into 65 apartments. Through conversations with Reh, the company utilized natural gas incentives to outfit units with gas furnaces, water heaters and ranges.
More recently Rose Rock did the same at the 80-unit Reunion Apartments, 9 E. Fourth St. It also added an outdoor living space to the roof of the 104-year-old structure. “They’ve incorporated more of a luxury environment by utilizing natural gas appliances such as an outdoor grill and outdoor fireplaces,” Reh says, adding that projects like this drive occupancy.
Rose Rock CEO Steven Watts says the Adams and Reunion projects were unique because electrical infrastructure was limited in the historical buildings, opening the door for partnership with Reh’s ONE Gas team.
“Her team was really set up to help us undertake our projects and kind of white-glove us through the process with engineering and everyone else that has to touch the projects in order to get us that level of gas to our buildings,” Watts says. “You always do a certain amount of front-end feasibility (on projects). And I’d say probably without the (multi-family) incentive, we would have been in a situation where they wouldn’t have been as attractive overall. So it kind of helped make the projects make sense.”