It’s a familiar site around New Hampshire: A few cords of wood, neatly stacked beside the garage of a house with a bright metal stove-pipe. Every August or so, homeowners who heat with wood plan for the winter ahead. Three cords enough? Better order four and play it safe. But what if your wood guy told you he could only sell you two cords? Or, worse yet, he was out of the business? You scramble to find a new supplier. You consider another way to heat your house. The cold sets in a little early and you’re buying over-priced bundles from the hardware store to get by. Winter suddenly seems longer, and more expensive, than usual.
This is roughly what happened to New England’s electricity grid this winter and it’s likely the new normal. Limited access to a constrained supply of natural gas meant home heating needs were given priority over those of power plants that use gas to make electricity. This shift drove rates up – first on the wholesale, then on the retail market.
The need for new and diverse sources of energy is immediate. Yet, we continue to see a struggle to find consensus on new energy development. Universally, interest in renewable energy is growing; though investment in the U.S. is sluggish because of uncertainty over the subsidies many such projects need to go forward. But there is hope even in this power quagmire.
Renewables already play a significant role in supporting the grid, providing more energy than coal on a typical day. According to the EIA, the US is second in the world in renewable energy generation and hydropower is the back bone of that. ISO-New England, the independent grid operator for our region, runs a downloadable app where you can see what fuels are generating your electricity in any given hour. This gives you a clear picture of how reliant the region is on natural gas during calm conditions and how much of our energy already comes from renewables. Imagine if we were to add 1,200 megawatts more hydropower, one of the cleanest sources of energy, to the mix?
Just to our east, the Maine Power Reliability Program is entering its final stages and proving the power of large-scale transmission projects. This 450-mile long transmission system will improve Maine’s grid reliability and carry wind power from the north. The $1.4 billion project has employed an estimated 2,000 people and spurred millions in economic development in the region during construction.
With the impending closure of several large-scale power plants in the region, industry experts predict energy shortages for the next several winters. We at Northern Pass believe adding different sources of energy to the New England power grid, like clean hydropower, can help prevent scenarios like this from happening year after year and bring many added benefits to New Hampshire and the rest of the region.
(The following articles are referenced in the above communication)
The UK and U.S. Northeast Face a Pending Energy Shortage
(Institute for Energy Research)
Concern grows over Hollis portion of proposed gas pipeline
(New Hampshire Union Leader)
LePage vetoes solar energy bill, two others
(Bangor Daily News)
Clean energy: Is a boom coming in 2014?
(Christian Science Monitor)
When it’s calm, renewables make more of our electricity than coal
What is the Greenest Source of Electricity?
(The Energy Collective)
Maine power upgrade: CMP closing in on finish of 5-year project
Electric grid battles power plant closures
(Hartford Business Journal)
Who has the highest share of renewable energy?
(Christian Science Monitor)