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New England energy officials warn of possible power crisis; governors infrastructure initiative could be the solution

  • Syd Surface reacts as Belgium scored a goal in extra time during the World Cup soccer match between the United States and Belgium at a viewing party in Indianapolis, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

    Syd Surface reacts as Belgium scored a goal in extra time during the World Cup soccer match between the United States and Belgium at a viewing party in Indianapolis, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • President Barack Obama waves after his remarks about transportation and the economy, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The president said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn't quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    President Barack Obama waves after his remarks about transportation and the economy, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The president said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn't quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Syd Surface reacts as Belgium scored a goal in extra time during the World Cup soccer match between the United States and Belgium at a viewing party in Indianapolis, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
  • President Barack Obama waves after his remarks about transportation and the economy, Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The president said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn't quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

New England is facing an energy crisis that will drive up consumers’ electricity bills, and the states need to come together for a solution, said regional energy officials at a conference held Monday in Manchester.

“The lights did not go out this past winter,” said Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources’s Nicholas Ucci at the forum hosted by the New England Council business association. “That doesn’t mean that they can’t.”

During the three-hour forum at Saint Anselm College, state officials from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island outlined the region’s energy challenges, including a lack of gas pipeline capacity, and they discussed a plan of action: a multistate initiative financed by ratepayers to build new energy infrastructure.

In December, New England governors launched an energy initiative, with the help of the New England States Committee on Electricity, a nonprofit that represents the six states.

The group plans to seek two separate projects to bring energy to New England: one to construct a new natural gas pipeline and another to build transmission lines to carry low-carbon power most likely from Canada, which will help many of the New England states meet their clean energy standards.

“The problems impact us all, and the solutions we believe are necessary can’t be achieved by any one single state,” Ucci said.

The states plan to help finance the projects by putting a tariff on the region’s ratepayers that would show up in electricity bills. That move would need ultimate approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

During Monday’s panel discussion, several of the state’s energy representatives outlined the proposal that they said is necessary because the market hasn’t put forward any solutions.

“We can’t allow New England to be an economy that operates nine months of the year,” said Patrick Woodcock, director of the Maine Governor’s Energy Office.

The initiative’s goal is to diversify the region’s fuel supply, stabilize the energy economy and above all, benefit ratepayers, said Robert Scott, commissioner of New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission. “The overriding criteria will be cost-effectiveness,” he said after his presentation.

The cost among New England’s ratepayers would likely be divided by their market exposure, he said. New Hampshire’s is about 9.6 percent of the base. And the costs could be recovered in about 15 years, an official estimated.

But the plan is still in the early stages. By this fall, the states plan to release a draft request for proposals that would be subject to public comment and input.

Earlier this month, the initiative came under fire by the Conservation Law Foundation. The group said the process has been largely hidden from public view and conducted with heavy influence from those who stand to profit. That topic was not brought up at Monday’s forum.

But many of the presenters said the process to get the new infrastructure projects would be a long one and likely subject to lawsuits. Ultimately, all of the states would need to approve the selected projects and each one would have to pass through local siting processes.

The need for this kind of project, presenters said, arises from the energy problems confronting New England.

They largely stem from a growing regional dependency on natural gas that has displaced many other fuels such as oil and coal, said the forum’s keynote speaker, Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-New England, the regional grid operator. Between 2000 and 2013, the use of natural gas for electric energy production in New England grew from 15 to 46 percent, but the region’s limited gas pipeline hasn’t kept up with the demand.

At the same time, alternative power sources are going offline, van Welie said. Several nongas power generating plants, such as Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and Salem Harbor Power Station, face retirement, which will result in the loss of roughly 3,000 megawatts of energy to the New England grid.

And by 2020, roughly 8,300 megawatts of nongas-powered generation is at risk for retirement, van Welie said. That could create a gap in power capacity, he said, and many of the generation projects that are planned to fill that energy void are gas-generated. “It’s going to really be a tricky situation for New England for next three to four years,” van Welie said.

The combined pressure is driving up the region’s natural gas prices to some of the highest in the country, van Welie said. It leaves ratepayers footing higher electricity bills, especially during the winter months when natural gas demand for both home heating and power generation is at a peak.

During this past winter, the region’s energy market costs exceeded $5 billion, compared with $5.2 billion for all of 2012, Ucci said.

The most frustrating part, van Welie said, is that the region is just a couple hundred miles away from what is arguably the cheapest gas market in the world: the Marcellus Shale running from West Virginia and Tennessee into Pennsylvania and New York.

“We are heading into a space over the next three to four years where the demand on gas pipelines is continuing to build and we are losing nongas energy for the system,” Gordon said “It’s gotten to the point now it has become quite critical we do something.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

“Power” and “energy” are euphemisms for “electricity”; euphemisms are a mainstay of public relations/propaganda campaigns, as is timing, and this one conveniently coincides with a peak electrical demand season. Stay tuned for the brown-outs. If this were REALLY some kind of emergency, regulators and owners of the supplies would turn first to a campaign to get people to conserve (as is being done for water in California), so the absence of any discussion of that is key here. This is not a new “crisis,” but now these centralized industrial monopolies’ business model is finally under actual threat from conservation technologies and decentralized alternative user-friendly sources, particularly solar. Public Service Company of New Hampshire (a/k/a PSCoNH, or, “euphemistically,” PSNH) and its fellow utility monopolies face divestment or death so have enlisted their pals in government to propose new centralized facilities not so much for power generation as for profit generation.

The same officials recently outed for doing back room deals on energy policy are now attempting to generate a "crisis" that their back room deals might help solve. What changed? Usually the "crisis" comes first. Fear mongering about being in the dark is standard operating procedure for greedy utilities. ISO-NE said if the New England Grid ever needed additional capacity, we could get it from the NY grid - especially with their additional underground transmission lines bringing Canadian hydro power all the way to NYC [twice as far as no pass proposes] with less cost per mile and no ratepayer subsidies. The New England Clean Power Link is another project that is also proposing to add Canadian hydro power to our New England grid - also completely underwater and underground - also with no ratepayer subsidies - by the Blackstone Group that manages 272 Billion dollars in assets. They know what they're doing. No pass is being run by the same incompetent crew that went 6 Billion over budget for half the project at Seabrook [and went bankrupt in the process] and doubled the price of the scrubber project going $200 Million over budget. Both of which NH ratepayers are or have been forced to pay for. Which company would you want running the next job you are paying for? Duh?

And so the snow job continues....Slice and dice up NH via Northern pass, so Brooklyn can continue to provide air conditioners free of charge to illegal immigrants.

those comments from the extreme left about the Northern Pass power not needed are as usual proven WRONG ..... AGAIN !!! Pass the Pass - NOW !!!!

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