Gridlock on the Road to Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion in New England

By Sean Burke 9 September, 2015

Without a doubt, the immense complexity of the situation surrounding the construction of pipelines for incremental capacity in New England creates many uncertainties. Facing both legal and political challenges, pipeline projects face an uphill battle to come into operation. In order to alleviate reliability and price concerns, something must be done. The merits of an electric ratepayer subsidized pipeline are dubious in a legal sense. Yet the market has not been able to cultivate a solution as of yet. ISO-NE has implemented two programs, the Winter Reliability Program and the PFP Program, to ensure reliability and, while these programs will undoubtedly help, they fail to address the price concerns associated with pipeline constraints. The only certainty is that any solution should ideally involve regional cooperation. One part of such a solution might be the Clean Energy RFP that was issued recently. This is a joint procurement of a large amount of clean energy resources and was jointly issued by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Though this faces legal challenges as well (that’s a story for another paper), it does not face nearly the same political opposition that pipeline proposals do. If this RFP were to be accepted by the Massachusetts DPU and Rhode Island PUC, it would address both diversity and emissions concerns, but probably not price and reliability concerns. If, however, the Clean Energy RFP was paired with a push to better utilize Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) through expansion of storage and demand response, the reliability concerns associated with New England’s lacking pipeline infrastructure may be solved. In light of the challenges facing natural gas pipelines, this potential solution may remedy many of the concerns facing policymakers, regulators, and ratepayers alike.

This is an excerpt from a paper written by PowerOptions’ Policy Analyst Intern Sean Burke, currently a senior at St. Lawrence University. Click here to read the entire paper

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