Posted on January 24th, 2014 by

For the third time this winter, we’re in the grips of a deep freeze and the arctic temperatures are putting a major strain on energy production.

You’ve heard the warnings about New England’s over-reliance on natural gas to produce electricity, and how the prices spike when more natural gas is needed for heat.  Headlines everywhere speak to the extent of this problem and what it means for prices and stability:

The Concord Monitor reported, via the AP, “Jet fuel turbines help to prop up NE energy grid” at the Merrimack Station coal power plant in Bow.

Bloomberg states “Natural Gas Rises a 2nd Day as Snow Pummels Eastern U.S.,” and says the spot price for natural gas in the Boston area (which means the price to consumers in all of New England) rose this week to the highest level recorded going back to 2001.

Electricity prices hit $.40 per kilowatt-hour on Thursday.  That’s more than four times the average price New Hampshire customers pay in their utility bills.

New England has a problem.  Northern Pass is poised to be a major part of the solution.

Right now, the demand for natural gas as a heat source is so high, there’s not much of it available in New England’s limited pipeline for electricity production.  Prices for electricity generation are soaring and many power plants that normally run on gas are not running.  Coal and oil generators are picking up the slack.

fuel mix

Source: ISO-NE  Click to enlarge

This chart helps to explain that chain of events.  At 11 a.m. Thursday (a time of the day relatively low on demand), nearly a quarter of New England’s power was being generated by oil, and almost 3/4ths of the oil available to use for electricity production was running.  Over the course of an entire year, oil makes up less than 1% of energy production.  By contrast, natural gas, which, on average, accounts for more than half of our annual energy production, was generating less than a third of our electricity and only a quarter of the natural gas usually available for electricity production was running.

It’s clear we need more diverse energy sources that are reliable and affordable.  By making 1,200 megawatts of clean, renewable hydropower available to the New England grid, Northern Pass would help reduce our dependence on natural gas and balance our energy portfolio.  More predictable and stable sources translate to more predictable and stable prices, too.  Northern Pass is a long-term investment in clean energy that will benefit all of New England. Adding different sources of energy to the power grid, like Northern Pass, is the most promising long-term solution to region’s energy dilemma.

Posted on January 24th, 2014 by

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