The Boston Globe’s editorial page has been ranting (actually ranting) about the need for a new pipeline for some months now. This is doubtless under the influence of regional electrical grid ISO-NE’s Gordon van Welie, and follows a January report from ISO-NE that suggested that rolling blackouts could be common by 2024-2025 without more natural gas.
But it’s all about the assumptions. And a new report by energy experts at Synapse on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation calls those into question. Their scenarios, which take into account continued improvements in efficiency and renewables as mandated by law, indicate that no new pipelines should be necessary.
Taken as a whole, the ISO scenarios and the stakeholder scenarios show a wide range of potential conditions during an extreme New England winter. The model results vary a great deal depending on the assumptions used in each scenario. When the ISO’s arbitrary assumptions are replaced with current trends and existing state resource commitments, grid operations during an extreme winter are more manageable and no rolling blackouts occur.
- For its Reference case, the ISO used unreasonable assumptions regarding three of the five fuel variables in its model:
- For the renewable variable, the ISO did not give full credit to the renewable portfolio standards that have been adopted by all six New England states;
- For the electricity imports variable, the ISO gave no credit for the Massachusetts legislation requiring 1,000 MW of clean energy;
- For the LNG variable, the ISO chose a low value for daily contributions of LNG, when current LNG infrastructure can provide 50-100 percent higher amounts.
It seems that the ISO report, in general, erred on an unjustifiably pessimistic side with regard to the growth in renewables, and their ability to provide security to the grid. Underestimating renewables growth is unfortunately pretty common, and in policy it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anyone with any common sense can see that we haven’t maxed out on efficiency yet. Imagine if we spent the $3.6-$7 Billion proposed for pipeline building on energy efficiency! Yes, Massachusetts leads the country, but that’s an incredibly low bar. And if New Hampshire is concerned about fuel security, it could surely do more for efficiency: currently it is ranked 21st. Improvement would help the entire grid.
In any event, it’s good to have actual numbers and scenarios in front of us. The fact that the Globe has omitted those from its editorials shows a lot, and it’s not good for them.