Spectra Energy and Northeast Utilities Partner to Take on New England’s Energy Needs
New England Council members Spectra Energy and Northeast Utilities (NU) recently announced plans for a joint project—Access Northeast—that will expand the capacity of two major gas pipelines, providing increased supplies of natural gas to consumers across New England.
The companies plan to invest about $3 billion in the project that will extend the Algonquin and Maritime Northeast pipeline systems, bringing an additional 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day into New England, which is enough to supply an estimated 3.5 million homes. Under the plan, Spectra and NU will partner with existing storage facilities to improve reliability at times of high demand, and enable rapid response to sudden changes in power output. It will also add delivery points for local distribution companies, expanding the area in which natural gas is easily attainable. The project, if approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 and will lower energy bills over the long-term. Access Northeast will complement Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM), a project previously proposed by Spectra that plans to extend the Algonquin pipeline by 40 miles and install new compressor units.
“This new partnership with Spectra Energy will benefit our customers, drive costs down and help take a substantial step toward solving the looming energy crisis in New England,” said Tom May, chairman of Northeast Utilities. “Last winter, the New England electric market reached a critical point, as lack of access to natural gas capacity cost customers dearly… These challenges will remain the same for the next several years, and our customers will feel the effects, if we do not act. We recognize that a portfolio of investments will be needed to address this challenge and we intend to deliver a reliable solution to customers with this project.”
Pipeline capacity has become a serious issue in the region, with energy industry analysts indicating that natural gas supply shortages caused by capacity constraints have resulted in spikes in gas and electricity prices and affected businesses, individual consumers and power generators alike. This proved to be an especially concerning issue during the cold winter months, when at one point last year wholesale electricity prices surged from a year-long average of $36 to $1,290 per megawatt-hour. The New England Council commends Spectra and Northeast Utilities for tackling this serious issue, and thanks them for their continued dedication to the New England region.