Thursday, 16 May 2002: 9:45 AM
Integrating climate information into the natural gas purchasing decision: Complex issues facing school district administrators
Since the deregulation of natural gas in the early 1990s many government agencies and private-sector organizations have taken advantage of this changed market place to minimize natural gas expenditures. Those who have been successful reducing costs have found that several issues including climate (e.g. seasonal climate forecasts) and non-climate (e.g. natural gas supply and price) factors must be understood when developing a purchasing agreement each year. The need to closely examine these factors climaxed for many groups during the winter of 2000-01 when natural gas prices hit record highs due to much below normal supplies and a cold winter experienced in most of the Midwest and New England. Many school districts were caught off guard by the high heating bills and realized after the winter that they needed to take a more serious look at how they could use the deregulated environment to their benefit. This paper will discuss the results of two recent research projects where students working with faculty and school district administrators examined natural gas factors and developed climate decision support tools. These tools were tested during the winter and spring of 2002 to assist each school district with the winter 2002-03 natural gas purchasing decision. Results of these projects indicated that differences between the two school districts (e.g. how they made decisions) existed and the general lack of knowledge about the various factors that could influence an annual natural gas decision. Overall, this study indicated that successful integration of climate information into decisions requires that climatologists: 1) learn about the issues and limitations facing decision makers as well as, 2) educate decision makers about climate information (e.g. where to find it, what does it mean, and how it can be integrated into important decisions).