New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) today celebrated a major milestone in the company’s history with the addition of its 500,000 th customer. The newest members of NJNG’s service territory are Joann and James Hayes of Toms River, NJ, who converted from oil heat and hot water to natural gas. As a result of lower natural gas prices, along with the installation of high-efficiency equipment, the Hayes family should be able to reduce their energy consumption between 15 and 20 percent and save approximately $1,000 annually on their energy costs. “New Jersey Natural Gas began in 1952 with 14,000 customers,” said Laurence M. Downes, chairman and CEO. “We now serve 500,000. This is a tremendous accomplishment and a testament to the women and men of our company who give their best every day to meet the expectations for safety and reliability of our half million customers. “We are honored Mr. and Mrs. Hayes have chosen New Jersey Natural Gas,” Downes continued. “We look forward to meeting their energy needs and keeping their home warm for years to come.” In commemoration of the landmark event, NJNG presented the family with a Broilmaster Premium Series natural gas grill, $1,000 in Visa gift cards and a gift bag, complete with grilling utensils, an energy-efficiency seal-up kit, CFL light bulbs, a low-flow shower head and a special Jersey Shore throw blanket, among other items. Mr. and Mrs. Hayes made the decision to upgrade their heating equipment to clean, efficient natural gas to save energy and money. Currently, natural gas offers a significant price advantage over other fuel sources. At today’s prices, natural gas is about one-third the cost of heating oil and one-quarter the price of propane and electricity, resulting in significant savings for customers. Conversions are a strong part of NJNG’s customer growth. Presently, conversions account for approximately six out of every 10 new customers. Over the past two years, the utility added approximately 13,000 new customers, a solid growth rate of 1.3 percent annually.