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Does New England really have an "energy crisis"?

Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things.

Not so much, it's turning out.  

Northern Pass bombards the public and the legislature with dire warnings about an "energy crisis." In calmer fashion, the NESCOE-New England Governors' call for more electric transmission infrastructure is premised on the idea that "we" need more and cheaper power because of the retirement of coal and nuclear plants and we need more transmission infrastructure to import it from Canada. In other words, there's a pending reliability emergency, the lights are about to go out. Any such warning from apparently trustworthy authorities triggers a survival response. We rush to the grocery store for batteries and bottled water when we hear a storm prediction; we elect presidents based on asserted foreign threats. For many, it's also an unexamined axiom that we will always need more power because we have been conditioned to believe so.

But consider the following points that undermine the credibility of the "energy crisis" warning:

1. In April, NESCOE answered the DOE's triennial question of whether there's a transmission shortage (congestion) in New England. If there is a shortage, DOE may enact a federal right of eminent domain to build infrastructure to keep the lights on. What did NESCOE say? There's absolutely no problem in New England. Zero. Nada. Furthermore, the social policy goal of renewable power development is not compromised by the current level of transmission infrastructure. Following are two quotes from NESCOE's response:

“New England Has No Congestion." (p. 3)
 
“These examples demonstrate that, in New England, the advancement of public policies such as supply diversity, environmental quality, and increased development of renewable generation resources, is neither compromised nor hindered by issues related to transmission infrastructure.” (p. 4)

This is the same NESCOE now pushing the NE Governors' transmission build-out agenda.
 
Read more at http://www.nescoe.com/uploads/DOE2012CongestionStudy_ConsultationDraftComments_4April2014.pdf
 
2. But didn't ISO-New England predict that there will be a shortage of power in a few years? Northern Pass tells us so constantly. Yes, ISO-NE's most recent “forward capacity market” auction showed a shortfall of capacity (less generation capacity bid than required) in just a few years (2017-2018). This has received a lot of press (e.g., http://www.nhregister.com/business/20140205/plant-shutdowns-mean-higher-power-prices-on-horizon-in-new-england); PSNH's Quinlan repeats it often. But it turns out that the ISO-NE auction may have been rigged to make the capacity situation appear worse than it is. FERC is now investigating whether there were irregularities and manipulation in the auction. See http://www.energychoicematters.com/stories/20140630b.html
 
3. Back to NESCOE shenanigans. CLF's FOIA request revealed that NESCOE hired a consultant, Black and Veatch, to study Canadian hydropower imports, didn't like some of B&V's modeling that is inconsistent with the build-out plans, and suppressed it. (See CLF's "detailed briefing" PDF link at http://www.clf.org/blog/clean-energy-climate-change/governors-infrastructure-plan/)
 
4. And even if there were an energy crisis, Northern Pass could not solve it. Nor could it solve price spikes in the winter due to natural gas constraints. HQ has a shortage of power to export in the winter and "wheels" it in from elsewhere to sell to us at premium price.

Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things. It's no reason to build Northern Pass, particularly a Northern Pass that robs value from 1000's of property owners and industrializes our landscape.  

JUL 15 2014
http://www.windaction.org/posts/40826-does-new-england-really-have-an-energy-crisis
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