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Grid: Could Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it more expensive to keep the lights on in New England this winter?

Posted by Matthew Zeitlin on Sep 19, 2022

Grid outlined New England's squeeze between a fossil-fuel-reliant present and renewable-energy future, quoting AEE's Caitlin Marquis on ISO-NE’s challenge to get enough natural gas during the winter months. Read snippets below and the full article here.

Like much of Europe, New England is transforming its electric grid, retiring coal, oil and nuclear plants, leaving it largely dependent on natural gas to keep the lights on and power its homes.

And, like much of Europe, New England could be on track for an expensive winter.

Despite New England’s goal of limiting carbon emissions, more than half of its electric power still comes from natural gas that comes into the region in pipelines and, exclusively unlike anywhere else in the United States, imported in liquefied form from overseas. The region’s squeeze between a fossil-fuel-reliant present and renewable-energy future always tightens when demand for home heating rises, but this year, the pressure could be significantly higher, as conflict with Russia has increased the cost of natural gas around the globe...

New England’s challenges are most acute in the winter, when the need for electricity and heat strain its limited gas resources. In a typical winter, the region should be able to keep the gas flowing to homes without compromising the availability of electricity. But in the event of an extended cold snap, then there could be issues with electric reliability, the region’s grid operator, ISO-NE, said in a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

“The region is highly dependent on natural gas for both heating homes, which is a huge need for New England in the winter, and generating electricity,” said Caitlin Marquis, a director at Advanced Energy Economy. “If you have a very cold day, or if you have any extended cold stretch of days, you have an issue of not having enough fuel to meet combined heating and electricity needs of the region. There is limited infrastructure, and [there’s] not been much investment in supply infrastructure for a while.”...

For environmentalists and advocates for green energy, the current situation is not an indictment of their effort to limit or prevent new fossil fuel infrastructure, but proof that New England needs to redouble its efforts to generate and store energy renewably.

“We have the system we have, and we need to manage through the upcoming winter with resources we have. We can’t lose sight of longer-term needs to transition to natural gas to more renewables, energy storage, building out transmission infrastructure to get us away from this annual cycle of worrying about the upcoming winter and how we’re going to manage through,” Marquis said.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News, Caitlin Marquis