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March 20th, 2013:

Grid Chief Warns Of Future NE Power Problems

American Energy Coalition - March 20th, 2013

New England's increasing dependence on natural gas for heating and electricity combined with supply constraints is causing shortages and price spikes, according to a recent story by WBUR.

Gordon van Welie, CEO of ISO New England, the region's power grid manager, testified recently before a U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., saying that "the status quo is unsustainable."

Van Welie said the region now gets just over half its electric power from natural gas and nearly a third from nuclear power. A switch over the last decade to natural gas is straining the existing pipeline infrastructure, which isn't sufficient to allow New England full access to gas supplies from the west and south, the article states.

"The effect of the bottleneck was seen this winter in a price increase," the article states. "Van Welie noted that in late January, New England was paying more than eight times what other regions were paying for natural gas, even though temperatures weren't especially low and power demand wasn't high."

"Wholesale electricity prices rose significantly during this period because of physical constraints moving the lowest-priced natural gas into New England," he said, according to prepared remarks.

A massive storm in February, which was accompanied by widespread power outages, also highlighted problems, according to WBUR. "Van Welie said at one point, 6,000 megawatts of electricity — about a fifth of the region's total capacity — wasn't available, in part because gas generators couldn't find fuel," the article states.

Van Welie said New England needs to beef up fuel inventory, such as by building more storage facilities, making contracts with liquid natural gas suppliers and investing in pipelines. "It is clear that the gas system is inadequate to meet the demands of electric generators during peak periods," he added.

To read the WBUR article, click here.

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