[Wed. November 18th, 2015] The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, released a new study, which evaluates energy options to meet the region’s reliability needs through 2030. The study considered different combinations of energy pathways that could plausibly emerge given economics and currently-known technological capabilities. Results show that under business-as-usual circumstances, New England can maintain electric needs, even on the coldest of winter days, through 2030 “without electric ratepayer investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity.”
Attorney General Maura Healy’s study emphasizes cheaper, less carbon intensive ways to ensure electric reliability and found that investment in energy efficiency and low-carbon imports represents the best solution from the perspective of ratepayer costs and net consumer benefit. This energy pathway would offer potential to meet climate goals with lower up-front capital investments than pipeline projects.
The study comes three days before the expected formal application by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. to federal regulators for their 415-mile project. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. fired shots at the study’s findings claiming it “will do nothing to lower unnecessarily high electricity costs for ratepayers, or provide long-term solutions to the region’s chronic energy problems and environmental challenges.” Other opposition groups such as Associated Industries of Massachusetts said the study failed to take into account the benefits to businesses that now don’t have access to lower-cost natural gas.
But opposition groups have it backwards – building new pipelines would result in less customer savings and would drive up emission of greenhouse gas (and their hidden costs), while energy efficiency combined with firm low-carbon imports on existing transmission lines would save customers money and produce the greatest reduction in emissions. From a business and economic perspective, it makes more sense to invest in energy efficiency and local low-carbon energy sources than increasing reliance on imported natural gas. While new pipeline capacity would generate wholesale electricity price benefits it would require significant up-front and long-term ratepayer commitments and fails to offer outcomes consistent with the goals of the Commonwealth.
The study comes from widespread concern in Massachusetts over reliance on natural gas. This is especially true when it comes to projects such as Kinder Morgan which would build a pipeline from the Marcellus field in Pennsylvania to New England, and connect to Spectra’s Maritime and Northeast Pipeline bound for export. Even so, Massachusetts ratepayers would pay a tariff for the project assuming blind obedience and no questions asked! The AG study represents an important step in the right direction because it evaluates the costs and benefits of increasing reliance on imported natural gas versus energy efficient solutions while bearing in mind the importance of the ratepayer.