Market Alert Update: Current CA Legislative Session Comes to Close with No Vote on SB411
We alerted you last week of CA SB411, the water conservation bill introduced by Senator Lois Wolk of the 3rd District. AUM, along with other Multifamily industry advocates, worked with Senator Wolk to ensure that Multifamily property owner interests were protected as they related to billing residents for water.
SB411 was passed late in the legislative session and was not read in the Rules Committee, so the bill will not be voted on this year. Any future bill must be reintroduced and go through the entire legislative process. AUM will remain diligent in protecting Multifamily owners’ rights as they relate to resident utility billing.
Texas PUC Takes Over From TCEQ
As you may be aware, presently the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has jurisdiction over water/sewer utility billing at multifamily communities. On September 1st, that jurisdiction will be transitioned to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). While this may appear to be a drastic shift, it is in fact not.
The PUC has adopted all the same rules and regulations of the TCEQ with one exception. In the past, lease documents must include either the entire set of rules, or a summary of the rules. PUC has eliminated the ability to provide a summary, therefore the entire rule section must be included. The Texas Apartment Association (TAA) has updated their leasing program to include these rules. They also have provided a 4 page print of the rules for those that do not have access to their program which can be found here:
Future registrations for billing water & sewer should be directed to the PUC and not TCEQ. If you have already submitted forms, the TCEQ will finish the process or pass the application to the appropriate contact at PUC.
Further information may be found at the TCEQ website:
As the PUC takes over the process of regulating water and sewer much like they currently do for electric, we anticipate minor modifications in the program and will keep you informed of these changes.
California Market Alert: SB 411 Amendments Pass Assembly Floor – On to Committee.
Key amendments protect Multifamily property owners' ability to bill for utilities.
As you may recall, last fall Senate Bill 750 failed to pass out of Assembly Committee. At that time, AUM was spearheading efforts to protect California Multifamily property owner interests as they related to the Bill. SB750 was to require all structures (with a few exceptions) built after January 1st, 2014 to be individually metered by the water providers, or have submeters installed to measure water use. Under SB750, any charges to residents for water would be determined by the use of a submeter or included in their rent, and any Ratio Utility Billing System (RUBS) would be prohibited.
Since then, AUM, along with several other industry players, has been working on a modification to the bill’s language and formulating its incorporation into a new bill. This new bill, SB411, was successfully amended on Friday Aug. 22nd to include the agreed upon submetering provisions similar to SB750, and is now going to committee. Working with great cooperation with Senator Wolk’s office as well as many other interested parties, the latest version of the bill will satisfy the wants and needs of California.
With similar language from last year’s SB750, the submetering portion of the bill will establish rules surrounding the use and installation of submeters. The rules established include but are not limited to the following:
Nothing will impact existing billing using allocation programs (RUBS)
Submeters (or direct metering by the utility provider) will be required for new construction after Jan. 1, 2017
Admin/Billing fee up to $4.75 or 25% of the utility charge with future CPI increases
Addition that nothing prohibits any other lawfully allowed charges to be on a utility bill
Late fees of $7.00 if not paid within 25 days, increased to $10 if not paid by the next billing cycle
Failure to pay balance shall be a curable material breach of the lease allowing termination of the lease following existing tenant landlord laws
Unpaid amounts may be deducted from security deposit at end of tenancy
Written lease must include disclosure of charges & billing methods as well as upon request submeter information such as location and testing registration
Estimated submeter reads (if unavailable) shall be 75% of prior average
Excluded from these rules are Low-Income housing, student dormitories, long-term health care, and time-share properties. Further exemptions may be allowed by the Department of Housing and Community Development in anticipation of infeasibility in high-rise structures.
The utility provider cannot charge additional “connection” charges for submeters.
All billing providers will need to update their billing practices, as well as landlords and their lease documents. As such, the rules will not become operative until Jan. 1, 2017 to allow adequate time for compliance.
This has been a long road, and we feel confident that this bill will be embraced by everyone now that the details are open for public comment. We look forward to its speedy approval and signature into law by Governor Brown in the coming weeks. The amended bill, SB 411 can be found here:
Natural Gas Storage and Usage
Storage Levels Continue to Grow, but Not as Strong as Expected
Storage injections continue to replenish supplies depleted over our last winter; surpassing historic average injection rates for the 16th consecutive week. However, last week’s injection of 82 billion cubic feet fell short of expectations. US natural gas storage totaled 2.389 trillion cubic feet, further reducing the deficit from the 5-year average to 20% from 21.7% and down from a record deficit of 54.7% at the end of March.
Weather Forecast : Transition to El Nino Conditions; Above Average Temperatures
The weather agencies are all predicting a transition to El Niño conditions is underway. During El Niño conditions, the northern tier of the lower 48 states exhibits above normal temperatures during the fall and winter, while the Gulf coast experiences below normal temperatures during the winter season
The temperature outlook for August-October indicates above-normal temperatures in the West, Southern Texas, Southeast and parts of the Mid-Atlantic States. Below average temperatures may be felt in the Northern Rockies and Midwest.
Above average temperatures may lead to higher electricity consumption, resulting in higher prices. Also, higher temps may increase natural gas consumption at electric generation stations, thus causing reduced storage injections of natural gas. If the predicted above average temperatures occur, natural gas prices
EC-Equal Chance for A.N.B. A- Above N- Normal B - Below
Natural Gas Prices Move Up Each of the Last Three Weeks
Natural gas prices generally increase across most markets in August. NYMEX natural gas deliveries for September continue to rise since Mid-July; peaking over the $4.00/MMBTU level.
In August, Henry Hub prices started at $3.75/MMBTU and have steadily risen to market influencers like mild weather, increasing storage injections and a decrease in energy consumption typically cause prices to soften.
Energy Price Sensitivity in the Northeast
The Northeast natural gas prices have proven to be more sensitive to temperature than other regional markets. A few points about the Northeast energy and its correlation to temperature:
During summer months, the largest increase in natural gas consumption comes from the electric power generation sector, due to the increased need for cooling in homes.
As temperatures approached 90 degrees in New York and New England during July and August last year, natural gas spot prices surpassed $5 /MMBtu at hubs serving those areas. However, prices remained below $5/MMBtu at the national benchmark Henry Hub in Erath, Louisiana, and at the Tetco-M3 Mid-Atlantic hub near Philadelphia.
The northeastern United States is increasingly reliant on natural gas for power generation. In 2013, natural gas-fired power provided 44% of net electric power sector generation in the New England U.S. Census Division, versus a 26% naturally.
Note: Lines represent best-fit second-order polynomial equations based on a scatter plot of temperatures observed at major airports in each city, and prices at nearby market hubs. Best-fit lines do not extend to cover the entire range of all temperature and price observations. Spot prices are by delivery date.
Bottom Line: Natural Gas Prices Have Started to Move Upward
Are you Prepared?
Congratulations to all of you who secured long-term energy prices these past few weeks.
We have seen prices begin to move upward; when many market indicators would have normally driven it downward. Mild weather, low energy consumption and increased gas storage injections typically hold prices steady, if not cause them to drop. Now is the time to look at securing longer term natural gas and electric contracts of 24 to 36 months. Look to lock in winter gas now, before the El Niño and the real summer returns or a significant event happens.
As a caution to our clients during energy supply contract negotiations, please make sure transmission, capacity and ancillary charges are included in the price offerings and they are not just listed as a pass-through charge. We have seen several suppliers try to make their prices appear lower by not including these components in prices; just to give the appearance of lower prices. Don’t be fooled; let AUM help.
“You lose with potential. You win with PERFORMANCE.”
- - - Bill Parcels, Hall of Fame Football Coach
Yes, it’s almost football season, but this truism applies not only to sports, but also to business. Our season is every day of the year. We all strive for peak performance; yet without a great way to measure our progress, our efforts are meaningless. The all-telling statistic that measures success in business is the income statement, and the difference between wins and losses is Net Operating Income, or NOI.
In Multifamily, a key component of improving NOI for property owners is the ability to manage energy expense and usage. The ability to transform energy expense data into information means the difference between profit and loss.
AUM Performance Dashboards reduce millions of data points into simple, visual information that allows Multifamily property owners to make critical energy expense decisions quickly. The Dashboards enable owners to view their performance at a single glance for their entire portfolio or an individual property. With just one click on a performance gauge, owners see actionable opportunities for improved performance.
Some key features of this new tool:
Critical Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on a single screen.
Easy to read gauges for quick visual analysis
Interactive gauges for simple drill down to more detail in chart or table format.
Each new view opens in a separate tab for fast & easy switches, comparisons, analyses, & root causes.
Ability to be used anywhere you have an internet connection – including your mobile devices.
So, whether you’re managing energy usage, utility expenses, vacant cost recovery, resident billing, invoicing or late fees, AUM’s Performance Dashboards on our Advanced Analytics platform provides all the energy and utility knowledge you need to support your decisions and help you maximize your NOI, and be a winner. . .even by Bill Parcell’s standards.
Now is the time to start securing longer term natural gas contracts of 24- to 36- months. Time is running short to lock in low summer energy prices for both natural gas and electricity. Any worries about low storage levels going into this winter are waning with recent high injection reports. Look to lock in winter gas now, before the real summer returns or a significant event happens.
Since our June report, natural gas storage levels received an injection boost of 430 BCF. While storage levels are still lower than in years past, natural gas storage has reached 80% mark of the 5-year storage levels. Good to see a strong recovery from this winter’s polar vortex.
Weather Agencies are predicting below average temperatures for the next 6-10 days for the middle US with above-normal heat for the West and Southeast. We are about half-way through summer and most regions have not experienced hotter than normal temperatures, as NOAA predicted. The longer we go without prolonged high temperatures; the larger our natural gas supplies will be for next winter. Also, our first hurricane, Arthur, had little impact on energy prices.
In June, NYMEX natural gas prices set a new high 52-week high of $4.87. The first week in July has seen prices drop to $4.19 / MMBTU; a 14% price drop.
Daily electric prices have seen the normal bump-up that summer brings. However, in all deregulated markets, except the Northeast, future prices increase each calendar year of 2015, through 2018. In the NY & PJM West, the future market prices see 2015 high and decline or are flat through 2018.
Bottom Line: Take Advantage of Soft Market
Now is the time to start securing longer term natural gas contracts of 24- to 36-months. Time is running short to lock in low summer energy prices for both natural gas and electricity. Any worries about low storage levels going into this winter are waning with recent high injection reports. Look to lock in winter gas now, before the real summer returns or a significant event happens. Additionally, electricity pricing has stabilized further into the future; look to longer term contracts (24- to 36-months).
A caution to our clients during energy supply contract negotiations: make sure transmission, capacity and ancillary charges are included in the price offerings, not just listed as pass-through charges, causing prices to appear lower. Don’t be fooled; let AUM help.
From the Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2014 –
Just as the Chicago area is getting ready for air conditioning weather, residents can expect to be jolted by higher electric bills. Starting June 1, Commonwealth Edison customers on average will see monthly bills jump 21%, to about $82 a month from about $69 a month.
Multifamily property owners and managers on variable market rates or still on Com Ed Rates will see significant price spikes. You can protect yourselves and your residents against dramatic fluctuations in energy commodity rates through expert energy procurement.
Before the hot summer electric bill price spikes occur, contact AUM for a review your current contracts & discussions for alternatives to this increase. You have options – keep your residents satisfied.
Natural gas and electric prices continue to trade higher than last year. High heating demand and increased industrial demand have contributed to higher pricing. We expect the economy to continue improving, thus keeping industrial demand going strong. We expect that the risk of higher pricing for both natural gas and electric supply outweighs any pricing downturn opportunities. For clients still exposed to utility default pricing or variable pricing for both electric and natural gas loads, we highly recommend reviewing your accounts and negotiating for fixed contracts. Clients should seriously consider securing fixed contracts with longer positions in the market with 24- and 36- month terms.
Natural Gas Storage and Usage
The month of April is complete and the weather still feels like late October. It feels like the weather will jump from winter to summer without much of a buffer. Meteorologists are still determining if the past winter was the 2nd or 3rd coldest in recorded weather history. Does it really matter?
Spring time usually has a calming effect on energy prices due to low demand for cooling or heating. But this year heating demand is still higher than normal in many areas, even though the summer season is fast approaching.
The current concern is the upcoming summer season with natural gas storage at an 11 year low - approximately 50% below the five-year average. To refill the storage to sufficient levels, (the 3.4 Tcf range by November 2014), storage injections need to average 86 Bcf per week. To note, the highest-recorded average weekly injection number was 80Bcf, in 2003. The market has started to show its doubts by recent price hikes. Producers will need to increase their storage injections during the summer months, increasing demand. In addition, if the hot summer temperatures are above average, we will have another demand component to deal with as electric generators will require additional fuel, with excess demand causing upward price pressure.
This past month we experienced the first storage injections of the season and the first monthly gain of 159 Bcf since the beginning of the heating season. Natural gas in storage is currently at 981 Bcf, almost one Tcf below the five year average figure (50% below) and 790 Bcf below last year’s level (45% below).
Weather forecasts are encouraging for the next 60 days. Temperatures are expected to stay in normal ranges during the next two months with limited seasonal energy demands. If this weather trend proves true and continues into July, we could see a boost in storage injections because production continues to set records. A month ago, NOAA was predicting summer temperatures hotter than normal by at least 5% as they compare to the 30-year average and definitely hotter than last year. Only time will tell.
Natural Gas Production and Pricing
Let’s revisit the facts stated previously: The natural gas storage inventory is the lowest it has been over the last eleven years, check. Current temperatures do not allow for a robust start of the shoulder season injections, check. Industrial demand for natural gas is rising, check. Several nuclear plants are retiring, check. The upcoming summer weather cooling demand is projected to be higher than last year and we have not experienced an active hurricane season for some time, check. Five for five in any other category would have been great but in this case it is of great concern.
Early this week the May 2014 natural gas contract settled at a price of $4.795 per MMBtu, a 5% increase from last month’s figure. The May settlement was 16% higher than last year’s May settlement. The NYMEX natural gas price curve depicted below includes a polynomial trend line curve which continues to show a sustained upward trend. The weather will continue to be the driving factor behind future pricing inclusive of the additional factors listed above.
Despite a great reduction in the active US natural gas rig count (currently at 310 rigs), production is still running at 67 Bcf per day, a record amount. Our actual rig count is down by 59% compared to the five year average of 758 but shale gas is definitely pulling us through with 15.7 Bcf daily coming just from the Marcellus shale.
A positive outcome of the higher natural gas prices is that they have helped reduce demand from power generators by 7% compared to last year. If prices remain at current levels we do not see much switching coming from current coal burning plants.
As of April 24th, 2014 the 12-month average forward pricing curve for natural gas is at $4.74 per MMBtu, compared to last month’s $4.55 per MMBtu price. We do not have anything left in the current heating season, but next heating season of November through March, is at $4.75 per MMBtu.
The effect of the much colder than average temperatures on market pricing is very obvious. Many could say that now is too early to start thinking about next winter season especially after the mess we had to deal with over the last six months, but if the upcoming summer hits the forecasted above-average temperatures with a sprinkle of hurricanes and the current storage situation experiencing levels 50% below the five-year average, we could be heading towards the perfect energy pricing storm.
Some of our clients did take advantage of the low pricing positions back in May/June of 2012 while several clients grabbed the pricing opportunity last fall and secured contracts in order to cover their loads through 2014 and 2015, but those low-priced contracts are coming up for renewal, and they will experience the current market uptrends. Our projection that the natural gas market will stay in the $4.50 per MMBtu range remains, and we still do not expect to see pricing below the $4.00 mark any time soon. Now is the time to start securing loads currently riding variable rates for the upcoming summer, but we are running out of time. Short-term contracts of 12 months or less are currently very expensive, longer term contracts of 24- and 36- month terms offer better pricing blend. The pricing negotiated now could be a bargain compared to what is coming.
The natural gas market has entered a process of setting a long term bottom in prices, consumers spoiled by a few recent years of low energy pricing will have to eventually adjust their expectations and move forward with renewed pricing targets and risk assessments.
Natural gas and electric prices continue to trade higher than last year, as high heating demand and increased industrial demand have contributed to higher pricing. We expect the economy to continue improving, keeping industrial demand going strong, while the 2013-14 heating season could have established the bottom-price thresholds for the remainder of 2014 and beyond.
We expect that the risk of higher pricing for both natural gas and electric supply outweighs any pricing downturn opportunities. For clients still exposed to utility default pricing or variable pricing for both electric and natural gas loads, we highly recommend reviewing your accounts and negotiating for fixed contracts. Capacity charges for next winter are already setting records in the Northeast. Clients should seriously consider securing fixed contracts with longer positions in the market with 24- and 36- month terms, as commodity and capacity pricing tend to stabilize into the future.
As a caution, during energy supply contract negotiations, please make sure capacity charges are included in the price offerings and they are not pass-through. They can be devastating for your budget if not secured. The main concern right now is natural gas storage inventories for next winter. We will know this possibly by the middle of the summer; I would not recommend waiting that long.
Today, the Boston City Council voted to approve the bill filed by Councilor Frank Baker to delay the implementation of the energy reporting and disclosure mandate in Boston for one year. The lone vote against the measure was Councilor Matt O’Malley (D-Jamaica Plain).
Click here to read the delay amendment.
In 2013 the City of Boston approved a new mandate requiring owners with buildings over 35,000 gross square feet to report and publicly disclose energy and water use. The law was to be phased in over three years starting this year.
Nine cities and two states have adopted energy benchmarking and disclosure laws. While all of them require building owners to track their properties' energy use, the laws vary regarding the size and type of buildings they affect; whether the energy use data must be disclosed publicly, or just to potential tenants or buyers; and other factors.
Major unresolved issues have led to delays in implementation in other cities. Seattle has revised its originally planned program and has twice postponed the date by which reporting is to occur for residential buildings. Washington DC has had several years of delays and only recently issued rules nearly five years after the law was enacted.
AUM will continue to keep multifamily property owners affected by this mandate and otherbenchmarking and disclosureinitiatives as they occur.
Today marks the 44th celebration of Earth Day. This global recognition of the importance of environmental consciousness started in San Francisco in 1969, when environmental activist John McConnell proposed a day where people would raise awareness for ways to preserve Earth's natural resources and protect its species, as well as celebrate the beauty of the planet.
Today, Earth Day is observed in 192 countries. Whether it's a massive public rally, a private event, or an individual contribution, there are many ways to participate. Efforts can range from organizing environmental fundraisers, to planting a tree, to taking care to use less water and paying extra attention to how many lights are left on.
Conserving energy is an important way to reduce strain on the environment and bring down expenses. Applying simple practices in your property's lighting, water, and HVAC systems can go a long way toward shrinking your carbon footprint and increasing your NOI.
Embrace natural light. During the day, think of the sun as your primary light source, and rearrange space take advantage of its rays. Open the shades or blinds and let the light pour in instead of automatically flipping on the overhead switch. Try to arrange your desk so that it's lit by natural light, so you won't have to use a desk lamp or overhead lighting.
Replace your incandescent light bulbs. These old-fashioned light bulbs burn off most of their energy as heat, rather than producing light. Replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs, both of which are much more energy efficient.
Minimize your use of outside lights. A lot of people don't think about how much energy is being used by porch lights or path lights that stay on all night long.
A recent study showed that 99% of business managers surveyed ranked water conservation as a “top five” priority over the next decade. The first step in understanding where you can conserve water usage is to conduct a water audit to find optimal water use. Then, monitor your utility bills to gauge monthly consumption.
Here are some useful tips to help conserve water at your properties:
Be sure your irrigation system is watering only the areas intended, with no water running onto walks, streets or down the gutter.
Marry the weather with your landscape water use. Water use should decrease during rainy periods and increase during hot, dry periods.
Inspect your landscape irrigation system regularly for leaks or broken sprinkler heads and adjust pressures to specification.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Clean and repair heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) system on a routine basis. A clean and working HVAC system will help largely reduce your energy bills.Clean or replace the office's HVAC air filters, and clean all the evaporators, condensers, coils, and heat exchanger surfaces at least once per month. In some cases, you may need to hire an HVAC contractor to safely and effectively perform these tasks for you.