Over the past several weeks there has been a steady stream of news reports from across New England regarding the region’s over-reliance on natural gas and the serious challenges it caused the electric grid this winter.
We share the concerns that ISO-New England and others have expressed. With our over-reliance on natural gas now threatening the reliability of the region’s energy grid, the need for the Northern Pass project is clear, and we are working hard to advance the project so that it will help to address this critical issue.
The project’s top priorities in developing a new route have and continue to be to bring forth the best proposal for New Hampshire, and to address the concerns raised with our first routing proposal regarding the project’s potential effect on views. Our work to achieve these goals continues.
Although we have identified a new route which meets our project requirements, we believe it is in the best of interest of landowners, communities, and all stakeholders for us to continue to build on the details of this proposal and to take the time now to make some additional refinements before we begin the formal public review processes at both the state and federal levels.
It is clear now, more than ever, that the region needs new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. The Northern Pass will help to provide that energy diversity, while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.
When the New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA) recently issued a new position paper, one might have assumed it was in response to recent warnings from ISO-New England regarding the region’s over-reliance on natural gas. ISO ranks that issue as the number one concern for the region, and recently explained the very real prospect of blackouts, price volatility, and fuel shortages unless the region can find solutions.
Instead, NEPGA turned a blind eye to this serious threat to our energy future and continued its attack on a real solution – Northern Pass. Why would NEPGA be opposed to adding 1200 MW of clean, base load energy to New Hampshire and the region? At a time when regulators, policy makers and customers are looking for solutions to our long-term energy needs, NEPGA appears to be looking out for its bottom line. NEPGA’s own fact sheet boasts that it controls more than 84 percent of all New England’s existing generation. It’s clear that Northern Pass concerns NEPGA because the clean hydro-power the project will deliver will displace the more expensive fossil fuels produced by NEPGA’s members.
Diversifying the region’s energy portfolio must be a part of our energy future if we are to address the significant challenges ISO-New England has identified. The clean, renewable, low cost, hydroelectric power of Northern Pass will provide New Hampshire and New England with energy diversity, while lowering energy costs and creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire.
At a meeting of ISO-New England’s Consumer Liaison Group last week, officials again warned of the risks associated with the region’s over-reliance on natural gas. This most recent warning, however, was considerably more serious than ISO-NE leadership has shared previously.
In a Sunday news story, Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO-NE Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told Dave Solomon of the New Hampshire Union Leader that ISO had come close to imposing blackouts due to constraints on the supply of natural gas that fuels most the region’s power plants.
“If we had lost one more big generator or a transmission line, we would have had to resort to our emergency procedures,” said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Independent System Operator of the New England power grid (ISO-NE), based in Holyoke, Mass. “Those procedures are to call on help from neighboring areas, then to call for voluntary conservation, and if that’s not sufficient, to institute controlled power outages … We came quite close.”
In another Sunday news story, Nashua Telegraph writer David Brooks reported similar comments from New Hampshire Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Harrington, who stated, “This was a normal January and February, yet we came very close to having rolling blackouts. What happens if we have a very cold winter? We could be in trouble.”
While this issue of New England’s over-reliance on natural gas has been making news since last summer, it’s clear the close call the region experienced this winter is bringing this issue into greater focus.
Diversifying the region’s energy portfolio must be a major component of any solution to address this issue, as well as considering New England’s pipeline capacity. Northern Pass will not only bring diversity to the region’s energy portfolio, but will also drive down energy costs while creating jobs and millions in new tax revenues in New Hampshire. Given the short term risks to the grid that are now becoming apparent, the ability for Northern Pass be in operation as soon as late 2016 to mid-2017 provides further value to New England.
It is interesting to consider this recent news and the prospect of blackouts in New England at a time when some continue to claim Northern Pass is not needed. The facts tell a different story. More than ever, we need new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. Simply put, energy diversity equals energy security. Northern Pass will help provide that diversity to our energy portfolio while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.
At the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association’s Annual Energy Forum this week Gordon van Welie, President of ISO New England, continued to cite our dependence on natural gas as the region’s “highest-priority strategic risk.” In his presentation, Mr. van Welie noted that a recent ISO study found that 8,300 megawatts of generating capacity are at risk of retirement by 2020 and that new capacity will be needed to cover a 6,000 megawatt shortfall in the future.
These comments follow more recent warnings from ISO that our growing over-reliance on natural gas as a fuel for generating electricity is a major challenge for the region. In a July column in Commonwealth magazine, van Welie, noted “It’s evident that generating electricity with natural gas has its benefits. But becoming heavily reliant on just one fuel poses challenges to the long-term stability of the power system.”
Meeting these future challenges requires planning and action now. Northern Pass represents an ideal solution for New Hampshire and the region by not only diversifying our energy portfolio, but also lowering our energy costs and reducing carbon emissions, with no customer subsidy required.
As the merits of the Northern Pass Transmission project are discussed, its resultant reduction in carbon emissions is often highlighted. But, the project is also expected to have a positive impact on the overall reliability of the regional power grid.
In an informational briefing with media on Thursday, October 7, ISO New England reported that the energy landscape is poised for a transformation over the next few years, and significant improvements are needed for the New England Power System to help address some emerging challenges.
Among several factors that could dramatically change New England’s power grid are the low price of natural gas and the fact that a full quarter of the region’s electricity generation capacity is tied up in aging fossil-fueled plants that may soon retire, increasing the region’s dependence on natural gas.
ISO New England reports the increased demand in the region for natural gas for both heating and electricity needs could become a problem during times for peak energy demand when pipeline capacity becomes an issue. Meanwhile, new development of wind and solar power is also a challenge for the region’s grid, since integrating it and moving the power from remote areas to population centers pose problems.
The Associated Press quotes ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie as saying, “It’s sobering in the sense that there are a number of forces coming together that will cause a transition. The consequence is that you have to do something about that, and it requires investment in additional infrastructure.”
The Northern Pass Transmission Project will provide much needed diversity to our region – lessening our reliance on one primary energy source greatly benefiting our region.