Posted on January 15th, 2014 by

We’re always paying attention to the ups and downs in the energy market and how those changes can affect our lives.  Lately, there have been plenty of stories to catch our attention.

Here in New Hampshire, we’re prepared for all that comes with the winter season – namely snow storms and frigid temperatures. While this winter hasn’t disappointed with a healthy share of storms and cold spells thus far, the region’s energy grid, in a change from years past, has been constrained and challenged. The region’s growing reliance on natural gas has led to wild prices spikes in wholesale energy costs and caused reliability challenges that are having real impacts on businesses and residential customers in New Hampshire and beyond. Here’s a rundown on what’s been making news on this issue in recent weeks:

Region’s Electric Grid Feeling Cold Weather Demand
The Union Leader looks at how a cold spell in early December caused a dramatic spike in energy prices.

New England Narrowly Escapes Power Outages
Forbes.com shows how the cold spell forced ISO New England, operators of the region’s energy grid, to use emergency measures to keep the power on.

Energy Supplier Suspended from Region’s Power Grid
Recent instability in the market is hitting home as one independent energy supplier was suspended after being unable to meet its commitment to New Hampshire customers. [Union Leader]

Natural Gas Volatility Creating Challenges at Gorham Mill
After soaring natural gas prices caused a three day shutdown at the Gorham Paper and Tissue Mill in December, the plant announced plans to reduce its operations and workforce last week, citing continued concerns with energy costs.

More Customer Impact: When Cheaper Energy Isn’t
Union Leader Reporter Dave Solomon looks at how seasonal changes in energy prices impact customers shopping for energy from independent suppliers and how it’s important to read the fine print.

Natural Gas Prices in Region Spike
The Boston Globe’s Erin Ailworth reports on how a spike in natural gas prices this winter has sent wholesale electricity prices soaring.

New England Energy Prices 40% above US Average
Energy experts believe New England is at a competitive disadvantage due to high electricity prices driven by lack of pipeline infrastructure.

How do we calm the energy storm created by this wild weather? There is no simple answer, but rather a need for a diverse solution. New England’s six governors recognized this last month when they signed an agreement to improve transmission and natural gas pipeline infrastructure as they also look for new sources of clean, renewable energy. By adding new and diverse reliable energy sources to the regional grid, New England consumers will be less affected by the fickle and limited supply of natural gas during key times of the year. The weather may get better, but the reality of our imbalanced energy portfolio will only become clearer in the seasons and years to come.

The winter weather of late has not only impacted energy prices, but also has shifted the mix of fuels we use to generate electricity. This bar graph compares the region’s fuel mix for 2013 with a two week period in December when cold temperatures constrained gas supplies. During this period, coal usage more than doubled compared to the annual average for 2013. Nuclear and oil also saw an uptick in usage. While coal, oil, and nuclear plants were available to keep the lights on this winter, many are at risk of retiring over the next several years.

 


Posted on January 15th, 2014 by

Posted In: Links, Uncategorized, Updates

Tags: , , , , ,