This is a very interesting development in New England. Clearly the region will need more power as old plants come offline. The question is, where will that power originate? Will it be fossil fuel based or renewables?
Natural gas is a good bridge fuel. It is generally clean, but sourcing it is increasingly risky. Better, we believe, to invest very heavily in efficiency, cut, across the region, usage by as much 30% and ramp up today's technology--clean energy and tech, microgrids, hybrid buildings, energy battery storage, etc--to meet demand.
Major utility companies backing a proposed $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline project from Massachusetts and Rhode Island into Connecticut have dropped efforts to get federal permit approval for the project because of serious financing issues.
The decision by Eversource and National Grid, two of the largest utilities in New England, to halt the federal permit process for the Access Northeast pipeline follows a series of state actions last year that effectively blocked public financing.
Energy industry officials argue that more natural gas is urgently needed in New England to meet rising demands as old oil, gas and nuclear power plants are retired.
In early 2016, a different $3.3 billion gas pipeline project proposed for New England by Kinder Morgan was pulled because of worries about ratepayer financing.
Eversource officials issued a statement saying the decision not to move forward with the federal permit process for the Access Northeast project "is a direct result of the lack of consistent energy policy across the region that would allow contracting for natural gas pipeline capacity for New England's electric generators."
Utility officials said they intend to continue lobbying to gain state support for pipeline funding, insisting New England is in serious need of additional pipeline capacity to supply the region's increasing demands for natural gas.
"New England's energy consumers are facing serious and well-documented electric reliability and price challenges," Eversource officials said in their prepared statement. They also pointed out that generating plants are having to rely on back-up coal and oil when natural gas runs short, increasing air pollution emissions.
Enbridge Gas Transmission and Midstream, the pipeline operator and another partner in the Access Northeast project, is also promising to continue working with state and federal agencies to revive the proposal.
Bill Yardley, president of Enbridge Gas, said the plan is to "help address gaps in legal authority that are currently preventing the region from achieving significant reliability and cost benefits from the utilization of affordable and environmentally friendly and reliable energy sources."
Connecticut's legislature several years ago approved ratepayer financing for such gas pipelines, as did Rhode Island and Maine. But this state's energy officials said Connecticut couldn't possibly afford to pay for a project of that scale without financial support from Massachusetts and other New England states.
Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court in August 2016 issued a ruling barring electricity ratepayers in that state from being charged for construction of new or expanded gas pipelines. An administrative ruling in New Hampshire echoed the Massachusetts court decision.
The Access Northeast project covers about 125 miles in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut and involves a major expansion of the existing Algonquin gas pipeline. The project was initially being pushed by a coalition of Spectra Energy, Eversource, and National Grid. Enbridge Gas acquired Spectra Energy earlier this year.
Connecticut energy officials have been trying to revise this state's energy policies in the wake of the decisions to halt the two major pipeline projects. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, together with other New England governors, has been advocating for expanded use of natural gas as a cheaper, cleaner fuel than oil or coal for generating electrical power.