Monday, July 7, 2014

New England faces major spike in cost of energy

"The problemIt begins and ends with natural gas."
Region faces major spike in cost of energy |

According to ISO-New England spokesperson Lacey Girard, the shift to natural gas in recent years throughout the region has been meteoric. With the advent of new fracking technology, eastern natural gas reserves — such as the Marcellus Shale Field in New York and Pennsylvania — are being increasingly tapped, she said.
As a result, natural gas is becoming more plentiful and cheap. For this reason, more and more New Englanders are tapping natural gas to heat their homes and natural gas power plants in the region are working to meet electricity demands.
To illustrate the point, she said, natural gas power plants produced 46 percent of the region's power in 2013, up from 15 percent in 2000. At the same time, power from oil-fired plants dropped from 22 percent in 2000 to 1 percent last year, and power from coal went from 18 percent to 6 percent.
The problem arises during the worst of the cold days of winter — particularly a winter like 2013-14. The natural gas pipeline coming into New England is insufficient to meet the growing demand for both heating and electricity. According to Girard, heating customers have first priority because gas utilities contract ahead of time for what they will need.
Natural gas electricity generators will purchase any "spare capacity" from these utilities when they need more power. But there comes a point, as there was on many days last winter, when there's just no more gas to be had for power plants, she said.
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