New England Needs Gas, But Readies Itself for What Could be a Rough Winter

Originally published for customers September 9, 2022

What’s the issue?

In December of last year, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation issued its long term reliability assessment for North America’s electric grid. It noted with respect to New England that natural gas infrastructure that supports electricity generation is susceptible to disruptions with the potential to affect winter reliability because power generators that lack firm pipeline capacity can have their supplies curtailed when the demand for natural gas peaks. This limited natural gas pipeline capacity leads to a reliance on fuel oil and imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet winter peak loads. This lack of sufficient natural gas pipeline capacity and lack of redundancy is a concern for electric reliability in a normal winter and a serious risk in long-duration, extreme cold conditions.

Why does it matter?

FERC held a public forum yesterday to discuss New England’s winter gas and electric preparedness. In anticipation of that meeting, ISO New England and the New England gas and electric distribution companies issued a joint call to action that they hoped would “inform the discussions” at that forum. The call to action noted that while the transition to a cleaner energy future required the region to reduce its reliance on imported LNG, there is an immediate need to firm up supplies of both pipeline natural gas and imported LNG — or the region faces reliability concerns both this winter and into the future.

What’s our view?

The call to action is correct in its assessment of the problem and the risks the region faces. Since at least 2014, these same entities have been crying for a coordinated regional approach for increasing the supply of natural gas to the region, but little has been done, especially by FERC, to increase the pipeline capacity into the region. As the call to action notes, until the region develops renewable sources of generation and the related long duration resources needed to balance renewables’ variable production, the region is dependent on natural gas and imported LNG to ensure the reliable provision of heat and electricity. “Without adequate gas, the region may not be able to meet the demand for home heating and electricity – and, when reliability suffers, the clean energy transition suffers.” 


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