There’s plentiful gas on our doorstep. Let’s use it
As an independent group not beholden to any energy source, ISO-New England President-CEO Gordon van Welie, in his State of the Grid conference call Wednesday, simply laid out the challenges of the organization that runs the power-generating system to meet the demand for electricity, given the region’s energy alternatives.
Though not questioning the industry’s decision to turn away from nuclear power and oil, van Welie alluded to the shortcomings of the main power-producing sources — natural gas, wind and solar. Obviously, the availability of wind and solar are subject to the vagaries of weather, while natural gas depends on sufficient transportation capacity to move it when and where it’s needed.
Given that, his sees this evolving energy mix presenting both benefits and the possibility there won’t be enough energy to meet power demands, not only in the winter, but other times of the year as well, presumably during summer heat waves.
Across the state, van Welie said, facilities are retiring onsite fuel types (oil, nuclear) that could be used as backups and transitioning to new types, partly because of lower prices for natural gas and renewables and partly because of legislative mandates requiring investment in sustainable energy. About two-thirds of new projects proposed in the ISO pipeline, for example, are for wind power, which the Cape Cod town of Falmouth recently scrapped.
And other projects, like tapping into green-friendly hydropower from Quebec, ironically have been stymied by environmentalists’ push-back – first in New Hampshire and now in Maine, though Democrat Janet Mills, its new governor, has recently given signals she might be open to the idea of erecting transmission lines through the western part of the state.