By William Opalka
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has commissioned a study to assess New England’s natural gas supplies and other energy needs.
The study, which is being funded by the Boston-based Barr Foundation, will identify options to address electric reliability needs through 2030. Economic consulting firm Analysis Group has been commissioned for the study, which will be completed by October.
“Our goal with this study is to identify the most cost-effective solutions for ratepayers that will also allow us to achieve our regional climate goals,” Healey said in a statement. “As the state makes long-term decisions about additional gas capacity investments, we should understand the facts — what the future demand is, and which cost-effective energy and efficiency resources can be deployed to meet that demand.”
Questions about the need for gas infrastructure have been tackled in studies by various states, stakeholders and ISO-NE, but Healey said they are either flawed or incomplete. “While there have been a number of prior studies conducted, none have answered the precise question of how much additional gas is needed in the New England region and whether that gas can by supplied by [liquefied natural gas] or additional pipeline capacity is needed,” the statement said.
A 2014 study commissioned by ISO-NE concluded the region will face natural gas shortfalls during winters through 2020 due to insufficient pipeline capacity. (See Pipeline Capacity, Retirements Top Concerns in ISO-NE Annual Plan.)
Kinder Morgan has proposed a controversial natural gas pipeline that would bring gas from the Marcellus region of Pennsylvania, through New York and into Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with a terminus at Dracut, Mass. (PF14-22).
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in April opened a docket to evaluate ways to bring extra natural gas into the state, including contracts between electric distribution companies and gas distributors, with cost recovery from ratepayers (15-37).
In light of the study, Healey asked the DPU to reconsider its denial of her motion to stay DPU approval of gas distribution companies’ contracts for capacity on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The attorney general said there are significant factual disputes to resolve, as well as questions about the legality of pipeline funding through ratepayer charges.