Natural gas metre

Heritage Gas says it can connect an extra 400 homes a year under the new plan. (CBC)

Natural gas will be coming to more residential neighbourhoods in the province, now that regulators have approved Heritage Gas' latest expansion plan.

The company has received permission from the province’s Utility and Review Board to change the way it calculates whether it's worth it to bring natural gas to a street.

Prospective customers will no longer have to commit to contracts. A simple indication of interest is enough.

Chris Smith, a vice president with the company, said Heritage Gas is also allowed to set up a $1-million per year fund that will help pay for the expansion into older neighbourhoods.

“We can go down streets that are solely residential and provide service [to] more aggressively pursue customers. Unfortunately we’ve been criticized in the past for not doing enough of an effort to reach residential customers and this is a first step to try and reach the demand that we believe is in the marketplace,” he said.      

Smith said it should give the company access to 400 additional customers a year.

The company had asked the UARB for changes that would make it easier for homeowners in Halifax, Amherst and Oxford to get natural gas. Those areas already have access to natural gas pipelines.

Over the last decade, the gas distributor has connected 20,000 customers in a few areas of the province.

In a separate UARB decision, Heritage Gas has learned it can develop contracts and plans for mainland natural gas storage — something the company says it must have to stabilize the cost of fuel.

This UARB decision isn't the final word on that plan for storage. Smith added it's not expected to happen before 2017.