Massachusetts AG reviewing report on Eversource, Avangrid constraining pipelines
Published last Tuesday, the new EDF report found that local gas distribution utilities owned by Eversource and Avangrid regularly scheduled more gas than they needed, only to cancel some of the orders later in the day — too late for the pipeline space to be resold.
The effect was to tie up some of the Algonquin pipeline’s capacity, researchers wrote, up to 7% on the most constrained days, translating into 28% of the gas that would have been used by power generators.
The practice pushed up power and gas prices. Over three years, researchers estimate consumers paid $3.6 billion more for electric power than they would have absent the practice.
Industry figures have called the report “irresponsible” and a “fabrication,” saying that utilities have little incentive to constrain pipeline flows and that they often over-schedule capacity at the beginning of the day to ensure they have ample fuel supply in the face of uncertain weather conditions.
“When weather predictions are uncertain, as they often are in New England, it is common sense to err on the side of caution in reserving gas supply and to have a safety margin or cushion to cover unexpected operational issues,” Northeast Gas Association CEO Tom Kiley wrote in a Utility Dive guest post. “That is what Avangrid and Eversource did.”
But Healey, a frequent critic of utilities and pipeline expansion, appears to be taking the report seriously.
“The allegations in the report are concerning and require careful assessment and analysis,” an AG spokesperson wrote in an email. “We are reviewing the report and gathering additional information. Based on our review, we will take appropriate action.”
Pipeline battles are not new to the AG. In 2015, her office published a report questioning the need for new pipeline capacity, and she is currently pushing Eversource to roll back its rate increase request in front of the Department of Public Utilities.
In Massachusetts, the attorney general acts as the ratepayer advocate for rate-setting proceedings.