By William Opalka
The Northeast Energy Direct pipeline project through southern New Hampshire is the best way to lower electricity prices and increase reliability in New England, the staff of the state Public Utilities Commission concluded in a report released Wednesday.
The 48-page report examined three proposed pipeline expansions and an alternative for increased liquefied natural gas deliveries during the winter. The PUC ordered the study in the spring in response to high natural gas prices and concerns about reliability over the past two winters (IR15-124).
Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct project would run on mostly new rights of way from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region through New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, terminating in Dracut, Mass. (See Kinder Morgan Trims Northeast Energy Direct.)
The Access Northeast project led by Eversource Energy and the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System, which would mostly expand pipelines on existing routes, provide lesser benefits, according to the report.
“We view Access Northeast and Northeast Energy Direct as two very cost-effective projects that will moderate future winter electricity prices, though the numbers clearly indicate that NED will provide the greatest benefits to regional electricity customers,” the report said.
Portland Natural Gas did not provide enough information for the PUC to conduct a thorough analysis, according to the report. The report added that Access Northeast would enhance reliability but would have less impact on gas prices.
“As a result of the NED project, [Kinder Morgan subsidiary] Tennessee Gas Pipeline will have the ability to physically deliver into every pipeline system serving New England, as well as to incrementally serve markets along its own pipeline system,” the report adds.
The report is less confident in the ability of LNG to fill in gas supply gaps, as it did during last winter.
“There is no guarantee that the market conditions that enticed LNG tankers to New England in winter 2014/15 will recur in future winters. This means the very high prices of 2013/14 could reappear just as quickly as they disappeared in 2014/15, assuming, of course, similar extreme weather conditions. Finally, it is important to note that the increased availability of LNG in winter 2014/15 did not eliminate price spikes or energy cost premiums,” the report said.
New Hampshire’s report is the latest in a number of analyses weighing the merits of proposed infrastructure improvements for the region. (See Dueling Studies Dispute Need for More Pipelines in New England.)