July 21, 2014

Yankees will freeze in the dark

William Tucker says  GET READY FOR THE NEW ENGLAND POWER SHORTAGE

In the next few years New England will be facing a full-scale power shortage.  Last week the governors of the six New England states met in an emergency session at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss what to do about the pending crisis.
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In a hell-bent campaign to rid itself of any form of dirty, messy “non-renewable” energy, New England has been closing down coal and oil plants for the last decade. In 2000, 18 percent of New England’s electricity came from coal and 22 percent from oil. Today it’s 3 percent coal and 1 percent oil. Meanwhile, natural gas — the fuel that everybody loves until you have to drill for it — has risen from 15 percent to a starkly vulnerable 52 percent, just behind California.

There’s only one problem. New England doesn’t have the pipelines to bring in the gas. Nor is anyone going to allowed to build it, either.
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It’s not as if it’s not needed. Last winter, when record low temperatures hit, there just wasn’t enough gas to go around. Utilities that service home heating have long-term contracts and get first dibs. You can’t stockpile gas the way you stockpile coal, so power plant operators were left bidding against each other for what was left. Prices skyrocketed from $4 per mBTU to an unbelievable $79 per mBTU and electricity prices spiked to ten times their normal level.
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New England is now limping along with 33,000 megawatts of electrical capacity, which barely meets its needs. At one auction last winter, the New England Independent Systems Operator, which manages the grid, came up 145 megawatts short — an almost unheard of occurrence. Yet in the next two years the region will be closing down 1/10th of its capacity in a bid to rid itself of anything that does not win favor with environmentalists. First to go will be the last of four coal plants at Salem Harbor, which can no longer meet the EPA’s new regulatory requirements. Next Brayton Point, the largest remaining coal plant, will be retired for the same reason. Finally, a continual barrage of protests and legislative attacks has persuaded Mississippi-based Entergy to close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Station and “let the Yankees freeze in the dark,” as they used to say in Texas and Louisiana. The reactor provided 75 percent of Vermont’s electricity and 4 percent of the power for the region, carbon-free.

“It’s going to be very tricky for New England over the next three to four years,” says Gordon van Welie, CEO of the Independent Systems Operator of New England, which run the grid.
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So the only “clean energy” left in New England these days is hydroelectricity — generated in Canada. The Canadians are indeed developing huge dams in James Bay and are eager to sell to Americans. But that means building transmission lines down from the north and everyone is opposed to that as well. Northeast Utilities, which services much of New England, has been trying to build a Northern Pass transmission corridor since 2009 but environmental groups insist the lines be buried underground. …….Meanwhile, environmentalists have become so ambitious and well funded that they have bought up land and property rights in northern New Hampshire just to block its path. Plans to bury just eight miles of the 187-mile route have ballooned costs from $200 million to $1.4 billion and the project is years from completion — if ever.

Another cold winter is certain to bring skyrocketing prices and possible brownouts. New Englanders already pay 45 percent higher electric bills than the rest of the country and that figure can only grow. The first region of the country to industrialize is about the drive away the last of its blue-collar workshops.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 21, 2014 11:29 AM | Permalink