No need for more gas infrastructure
A new analysis done by the regional electric grid operator, ISO-New England, confirms what experts have said for years: New England doesn’t need expensive new gas pipelines to keep the lights on and our homes warm during harsh winters. Instead, the clean power and energy efficiency we are already buying will guarantee year-round reliability and energy diversity, all at a low cost to consumers.
The results of this new analysis stand in stark contrast to a report that ISO-NE released in January, which painted a much bleaker picture of our energy future. Now that ISO-NE has evidence that the original report may not tell the whole story, you would think that the agency might update it. But so far, it hasn’t.
Instead, ISO-NE has filed the original report with the Trump administration, giving weight to its reckless efforts to subsidize dying coal plants, while its officials continue to tour New England warning policymakers and reporters that only drastic action, such as fossil plant subsidies, will keep our system reliable. Unfortunately, by doing so — and refusing to change its report — ISO-NE is doing the public a costly disservice.
The January report, developed without input from outside experts, was based on faulty assumptions about what our regional fuel supply and energy grid look like today and what they will look like in the future. Perhaps most importantly, the report’s baseline scenario failed to acknowledge a host of successful state-level clean energy and efficiency programs and the impacts they’ll have on the power grid in the coming years.
So a large group of stakeholders — including private power companies, state consumer advocates, state attorneys general, energy developers, and environmental groups — recently asked ISO-NE to rerun its analysis, using the following assumptions:
• New England states will continue to meet their existing mandates that require increasingly higher percentages of electricity come from new clean, renewable sources, such as the recently-announced offshore wind project here in Rhode Island.
• Energy efficiency savings, increases in solar power, and decreases in demand for electricity will continue as ISO-NE itself has forecast for the next 10 years.
• Existing regional liquefied natural gas markets will remain profitable and reliable sources of on-demand winter energy, as they have for the last several years.
This is the honest “business-as-usual” scenario — it reflects what’s already happening and includes key details that we have no reason to believe will change. States have so far been meeting their obligations for clean energy, forecast trends have panned out, and our energy markets have reliably delivered even during the coldest winter days.
When ISO-NE reran its analysis with this corrected scenario, the change in its results was night-and-day: in all cases and even in the harshest of winters, ISO-NE’s model forecasts zero reliability concerns and zero rolling blackouts, all without any new pipelines or other expensive new gas infrastructure. The bottom line: As long as New England states stay on track to meet clean energy and energy efficiency goals, we’ll be just fine.
That means there is no reason for ISO-NE to be rushing to federal regulators, as it currently is, seeking permission to subsidize a Massachusetts fossil fuel power plant to the tune of $200 million per year. Everyone in New England will be saddled with that bill for as long as ISO-NE’s flawed model continues to suggest that the clean grid we are building can’t handle harsh winters.