By William Opalka
Two studies released last week came to opposite conclusions on the need for additional natural gas pipeline capacity in New England.
The results were unsurprising: One study was funded by domestic natural gas producers; the other by a liquefied natural gas importer.
One report, funded by GDF SUEZ Energy North America, which operates an LNG import terminal in Everett, Mass., concluded that the region has adequate pipeline capacity to meet winter power demand, especially if contributions from dual-fuel-capable generation and LNG are expanded.
The report, written by international consultant Energyzt Advisors, is highly critical of the proposal embraced by several New England governors to help fund added natural gas infrastructure with a tariff assessed on electricity ratepayers. (See New England Governors Revise Energy Strategy.)
“The proposed electricity ratepayer funding of additional gas pipeline capacity is an expensive and dangerous proposition in terms of ratepayer cost and healthy market function in New England,” the report says.
The second report, sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute, which represent domestic oil and gas producers, says that the region will pay $5.4 billion in higher energy costs (2014 dollars) between 2016 and 2020 unless more pipelines and other infrastructure are built.
“The $5.4 billion in added costs will ramp up from 2016 through 2020, increasing the region’s electricity and natural gas costs by 9% in 2020, according to forecasted energy demand and costs,” says the report, written by Boston-based LaCapra Associates and the Economic Development Research Group.
It was issued by the newly formed New England Coalition for Affordable Energy, which also includes business groups, real estate interests and a utility workers union.
New England’s governors and ISO-NE have said existing pipelines are inadequate to supply the generation base, especially as more natural gas generation enters the power plant portfolio and older coal-fired plants retire.
The GDF SUEZ report says pipeline projects already underway are enough to meet peaking needs. It cited several projects, including Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market Project and the Atlantic Bridge Project, which are expected to increase capacity by 600 million cubic feet per day by the winter of 2017-2018. (See Hearing on Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Highlights Local, National Issues.)
Winter Reliability Program
ISO-NE has used a winter reliability program the past two years to combat tight natural gas supplies that are diverted to heat homes and businesses on the coldest days. The program has created incentives for LNG use and for power generators to store oil on-site for plants that can burn either fuel. The GDF SUEZ report also cites ISO-NE’s Pay-for-Performance program, set to debut in 2018, as another reason additional pipelines are not needed.
“The issue is not lack of infrastructure but insufficient commercial contracts to access existing energy,” the report says. “The market is responding with dual-fuel capability and LNG contracts. This past winter 2014/15 has demonstrated the powerful ability of competitive natural gas and electricity markets to respond to price signals,” it adds.
The ANGA/API report counters that energy infrastructure constraints have cost the region at least $7.5 billion over the past three winters. “Pipeline infrastructure has not kept pace with this increased demand and is reaching maximum capacity, especially during the winter months, to meet both electricity generation and space heating demands,” it said.
The authors said their study is more comprehensive than other analyses that considered only a single type of infrastructure. It includes a scenario in which no new additional infrastructure investments are made and an “unconstrained” case assuming $9 billion in spending for natural gas pipelines, electric transmission and generation.