How much natural gas do we need? Regional grid operator ISO-New England’s CEO has long warned of insufficient gas pipeline capacity, while enviros (like me) have scoffed, pushed for more renewables in place of leaky, climate-hazardous, and unsafe gas infrastructure.
Well, now there’s another leak in the pipeline position: Remember the Polar Vortex winter of 2013-14? Apparently we got gouged.
A new academic analysis argues gas utility subsidiaries of Avangrid and Eversource have artificially constrained gas pipeline capacity in New England for years, driving up natural gas and electricity prices and potentially violating federal laws.
The systematic withholding of pipeline capacity, particularly on the coldest days, has cost New England electricity consumers $3.6 billion in higher prices over the past three years, according to “Vertical Market Power in Interconnected Natural Gas and Electricity Markets,” a new white paper.
… “If this analysis is correct, honestly, this isn’t a whole lot short of Enron,” said Andy Weissman, senior counsel at the Washington, D.C., law firm Pillsbury. “If customers really paid $3.6 billion as a result of withheld capacity … that is a big time scandal that is going to lead to huge litigation.”
Essentially the companies bought up pipeline capacity — thereby jacking up the price of the gas — and then didn’t use it at the last minute, too late to re-sell it.
I’m happy to say that The Indispensable Woman, AG Maura Healey, is looking into it — as if she doesn’t have enough to do suing the Trump administration for its daily outrages.
Conclusion: As ever, take fossil fuel interests’ stories with a huge grain of salt. They’re not looking out for us.