An energy study released today by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey concludes that New England does not need additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure to meet peak winter energy demand and that energy efficiency and "demand response" would be the best solution over the next 15 years for both consumers and the environment.
The long-anticipated study concludes that New England's power system is not facing an imminent reliability threat through 2030. Healey, who acts as utility ratepayer advocate in Massachusetts, commisioned the study in July.
"As we make long-term decisions about our energy future, it's imperative we have the facts," Healey said in a press statement. "This study demonstrates that we do not need increased gas capacity to meet electric reliability needs, and that electric ratepayers shouldn't foot the bill for additional pipelines."
The study, titled "Power System Reliability in New England: Meeting Electric Resource Needs in and Era of Growing Dependence on Natural Gas," was conducted by the Analysis Group a Boston-based economic and financial consulting firm, with the support of the Barr Foundation..
The study used "extremely conservative assumptions," said Healey, applying bitterly cold winter conditions and modeling a "worst case scenario" where a future New England, overly reliant on natural gas, experiences short-term disruption in other fuels.
The study found that under such a scenario, the region could need 2,400 megawatts for several hours across nine very cold days by 2030, the equivalent of an additional 0.42 billion cubic feet per day of new gas capacity.
Out of six modeled options, the study found that investment in energy efficiency and demand response would result in the greatest customer savings while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Healey said.
Demand response is a program that would allow consumers to save money by shifting their energy usage to non-peak times. Such programs can lower the cost of electricity in wholesale markets, leading to lower retail rates, according to the Department of Energy.
Healey's study looked at two infrastructure scenarios — one for a large pipeline that would bring consumer savings but "significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions," and a second involving "low-carbon imports" over new and existing transmission lines combined with imports of liquefied natural gas.
That scenario would reduce emissions, but the costs of building transmission infrastructure would exceed any ratepayer benefit, Healey's study states.
The study accounted for recent news that Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant is scheduled to shut down by June 2019, resulting in the loss of 680 megawatts of power, said Healey.
Healey said she has provided a copy of the study to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is set to begin its formal review of the Kinder Morgan Northeast Direct pipeline, which would cross parts of Massachusetts transporting natural gas from Pennsylvania. Kinder Morgan has said it will submit its application to FERC for the interstate pipeline proposal on Friday.
The stated purpose of Healey's study was to determine whether the region is facing electric reliability challenges through 2030, and identify the most cost-effective and clean solutions for addressing any challenges.
Healey in June urged caution in building new natural gas pipelines, saying she does not believe they are the best way to rein in spiking costs.
Mary Serreze can be reached at email@example.com