U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is calling for a review of New England’s natural gas shortage, which has led to higher electricity prices and concerns that the region’s electric grid is overly dependent on the fuel, according to an article in the Hartford Courant.
Moniz wrote in a letter to New England senators that the issue of tight natural gas supplies will be one of the first raised in a broad federal review of the country’s energy system, which President Barack Obama requested earlier this month. A stakeholder meeting in the next few months will kick off the review, Moniz said.
“As a New Englander myself, I am acutely aware of the constraints that existing infrastructure to and within the New England region present for the transmission of natural gas to customers, industrial facilities, and power plants,” Moniz, who is from Massachusetts, wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and others.
There is an ample supply of natural gas because of new drilling techniques, like hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but it has become costly to transport it into New England, the Courant reports. Pipelines into the region are packed, as cold weather raises demand for heating and the region’s power plants have increased their reliance on the fuel in recent years.
“With supply into the region tight, electricity prices have jumped and some industrial and commercial gas customers have been called on to temporarily switch fuels in order to maintain adequate supply,” the article states.
In December, the six New England governors signed a pact agreeing to address these and other issues in concert. They wrote to Moniz in late December expressing their concerns about “the natural gas and energy market challenges facing the New England region and the effect that high energy prices are having on consumers and businesses.”
Last week, the governor’s proposed to levy a new tariff on power plants that would fund the building of new pipelines and the expansion of existing lines into the region. ISO New England, the operator of the region’s power grid and wholesale electricity market, called the approach “novel” and said it would submit the idea to federal regulators.
Murphy said that a solution to the capacity issue will require major federal and state involvement, from approvals to funding and construction. “If we’re going to site new natural gas transmission capacity, we have to have the private sector, the federal government and states aligned,” Murphy told the Courant. “That’s why it’s important to us as the department sets its priorities in the Quadrennial Energy Review to dedicate resources to fix this problem in the Northeast.”
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