PERC talks workforce recruitment, water heaters; approves 2019 budget, projects

November 15, 2018 By    

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) showed its support for workforce recruitment initiatives by passing two funding requests related to the issue; heard from Rinnai America Corp.’s COO about opportunities in the water heater market; and approved a $41.6 million budget for 2019 during its Nov. 8-9 meeting in Savannah, Georgia.

PERC approved $500,000 for a 2019 workforce recruitment pilot program, which will provide resources for grassroots initiatives to help address the challenges of workforce recruitment. It also approved $250,000 for a pilot program that will allow for the creation of a technician/driver task-based training school in North Carolina geared to place graduates into the propane industry.

“We don’t go anywhere in this industry where the industry doesn’t say, ‘I need help with workforce recruitment,’” says PERC President and CEO Tucker Perkins. “We get it. It’s important for us and NPGA, to the industry, and there’s a lot of activity there.”

Rinnai America Corp. COO Frank Windsor spoke to council members about propane industry opportunities with water heaters, particularly tankless models. Windsor outlined the company’s North American headquarters expansion efforts in Peachtree City, Georgia, and its new manufacturing capabilities in Griffin, Georgia.

Windsor addressed council members, but also tried to motivate propane marketers. He says the industry must be more aggressive in educating consumers about what propane offers and also getting more propane products into customers’ homes and businesses.

“You are trusted advisers with your customers,” Windsor says. “When you think about how you are marketing products and services to your customers, you have an advantage because you are a trusted adviser. You have credibility with your customers.”

Also in Savannah, Stratas Advisors provided a detailed propane market outlook for the council. While the global consultancy forecasts declines in U.S. propane demand in the residential sector (5.4 percent) and overall (3.2 percent) through 2030, it offered up opportunities for the industry in the coming years.

According to Stratas Advisors, propane industry opportunities can be found in the areas of internal combustion engines (for fleets and on-site power generation); the commercial sector (including for tankless water heaters); and cylinder markets, which can serve as touchpoints for growing consumer awareness of propane. It’s also important, Stratas advises, for the industry to maintain gallons elsewhere.

“The U.S. is a mature market, and that requires thinking on your feet,” says Ashley Petersen, senior oil market analyst at Stratas Advisors. “It requires diverse sector targeting to take advantage of the opportunities out there.”

The council also approved the following funding requests, with the primary partner in parenthesis, where applicable:

• $2,820,000 for 2019 residential and commercial market outreach. PERC looks to integrate messages to homeowners and construction professionals while taking a regionally-specific approach to its outreach. Each audience will receive digitally-dominant messaging and similar value propositions tailored to each unique audience, the council says. (Hanley Wood and Swanson Russell)

• $1,269,500 for 2019 partnerships with industry organizations, which allow PERC to foster strategic alliances with industry organizations, such as the GPA Midstream Association and the National Propane Gas Association.

• $1.2 million for 2019 autogas market outreach, dedicated to targeting consumers and influencers. PERC says school transportation will be its highest priority for propane autogas marketing, outreach and communications efforts. (Swanson Russell)

• $1.2 million for a National Builder Incentive Program, which provides monetary incentives to builders and developers for the installation of propane appliances in housing communities. (Waypoint Construction Services LLC)

• $1.2 million for 2019 outdoor power equipment market outreach, which will target end users with propane messaging that highlights total cost of ownership, emissions reduction and reliable productivity. Aftermarket conversions will receive a greater focus than in past years, PERC says, and commercial mowing will see the largest portion of the overall attention. (Swanson Russell)

• $1 million for the 2019 Partnership with States program, which supports the states by providing funding for consumer education, safety and training, and market development projects. PERC says 2019 will be the final year for the program.

• $980,000 for 2019 material handling market outreach, targeting manufacturers, dealers/distributors, fleet managers, operators and organizations critical to the adoption and growth of propane in the forklift and allied material handling markets. (Swanson Russell)

• $950,000 for 2019 agricultural market outreach, to aid in growing propane demand by facilitating communication among customers and influencers in the agricultural and propane industries, highlighting the operational and financial advantages of new technology and the benefits of propane as an energy source. (Swanson Russell)

• $505,500 for 2019 industry engagement, for activities that allow PERC to engage directly with state association executives, marketers and industry partners.

• $490,000 to support 2019 PERC Advisory Committee functions and project administration of several programs.

• $400,000 for 2019 professional and support services, which PERC utilizes for specialized expertise in specific markets and technologies.

• $375,000 for the 2019 Mower Incentive Program, which provides incentives to applicants – landscape contractors, municipalities, etc. – for the purchase of propane-powered mowers for use in their lawn maintenance operations.

• $250,000 to help Industrial-Irrigation and Woodward Fuel Systems launch a certified irrigation engine line of seven new configurations, all with a new PG+ fuel system from Woodward.

• $212,910 to develop a series of customer safety awareness materials for industrial and commercial markets. (Swanson Russell)

• $212,696 for a survey and report on the 2018 U.S. sales of odorized propane, providing a state-by-state assessment of sales by end-use sector. (ICF)

• $200,000 for a residential gas heat pump water heater, which will ensure propane product development parallel to natural gas and a competitive product to an electric heat pump water heater. (Rinnai)

• $157,409 for a project that will enable consolidation of Learning Management Systems (LMS) used to deliver safety and sales training to the propane industry workforce. LMS is a software tool used to deliver online training. (eLogic Learning)

• $140,095 for maintenance and support for the Certified Employee Training Program. (Dashe & Thomson)

• $105,000 for a 2019 propane market analysis program, which works to collect and assess market intelligence data.

• $90,000 for a Briggs & Stratton/Propane Power Systems propane electronic fuel injection (EFI) engine development program. The project will focus on the development and certification of an aftermarket EFI conversion kit for the air cooled V-twin Briggs & Stratton/Vanguard EFI 810-cc and the 993-cc engines – in both vertical and horizontal shaft configurations. (Propane Power Systems)

• $90,000 for phase 2 of a John Deere Gator TX propane development project, which will focus on the development and certification of an application-specific propane conversion kit for the company’s two-wheel-drive utility vehicle. (Lehr/EnviroGard)

• $50,000 for a fuel sampling and troubleshooting program, which will allow PERC to investigate causes and potential contaminants related to performance issues. (Southwest Research Institute)

PERC will next meet by conference call on Feb. 13, 2019.

Featured image courtesy of PERC

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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