This January ISO-NE published an operational analysis of fuel-security challenges. The study considered numerous electricity generation scenarios to test the reliability impact on the winter of 2024-2025. In conclusion, the ISO warns that without additional natural gas pipeline capacity, New England is likely to face emergency actions such as rolling blackouts, to temporarily reduce demands on the grid. The report drew mixed reactions – some arguing that clean energy can reliably fill the gap that will be left from retiring fossil fuel and nuclear plants.
Also, recently Massachusetts announced that it has selected the Northern Pass Project to deliver renewable hydro power from Quebec to the state. Northern Pass is $1.6 billion Eversource project. The New Hampshire Site Committee voted against the project on February 2nd, creating further doubt on whether it will ever be completed. In the U.S. energy-rich economy, rolling black outs won’t be acceptable. New England could be beholden to nuclear and oil plants that would otherwise retire. Costs will go up; needed progress on low carbon emission could be delayed; and the region’s economy will suffer.
Because clean energy technologies make up only a small, albeit rapidly growing, portion of the electric generation mix, there are still significant uncertainties about how they will ultimately impact system reliability, and at what cost. Natural gas has grown steadily over the decade to become the fuel of choice in electric generation precisely because of its economic and environmental benefits versus dirtier fossil fuels and high investment risk nuclear. It is the bridge fuel to the future. New York and Massachusetts, and thereby New England, are a taking on an out-sized risk burning this bridge.