Energy & Environment

Without it, businesses cannot operate productively, hospitals and schools cannot provide essential services, and residents cannot depend on the amenities of daily life in our modern society.  While electricity is a basic necessity, it is also a commodity – a product that is produced, sold, and transported for profit by hundreds of companies. And like most commodities, electricity is sold on both a wholesale and retail level.

Some key facts about the New England energy market:

  • The region has a population 14 million with 6.5 million households and businesses.
  • These households and businesses are served by 13 interconnections to power systems in New York & Canada.
  • There are more than 8,000 miles of transmission lines in the six New England states.
  • The region’s approximately 350 generators have more than 30,000 MW of generating capacity.
  • There are more than 400 buyers & sellers in the markets.

The New England Council’s Energy and Environment Committee’s ongoing work on a variety of issues and policies helps to ensure that New England’s citizens and businesses continue to have access to affordable and secure energy resources. The Council’s Energy and Environment Committee provides a forum for New England’s energy and environment communities to discuss public policy priorities for the region.  The NEC staff contact for the Energy & Environment Committee is Peter Phipps.  Below are some examples of recent activities.

Energy Infrastructure Issues

The Energy & Environment Committee has held a series of informative meetings to discuss the need for infrastructure expansion for both natural gas and electric power in the region.  These meetings have given NEC members the opportunity to hear directly from the organizations at the forefront of addressing the region’s infrastructure needs.

In February of 2015 the Energy & Environment Committee met for a briefing on several of the proposed natural gas pipeline projects in the region.  Members heard from representatives from Council members Constitution Pipeline, Iroquois Gas, Kinder Morgan and Spectra Energy, who provided brief presentations on their ongoing efforts to expand their respective natural gas transmission systems.  Following the presentations. Committee members discussed these projects and how best to meet market demand.

In June of 2015, the Energy & Environment Committee heard presentations from several regional groups working on energy affordability. Carl Gustin from the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy briefed committee members on the group’s formation and its efforts to advocate for affordable electricity and natural gas through all types of infrastructure development. Additionally, Tony Buxton from PretiFlaherty—a Council member—who is also active in the Coalition to Lower Energy Costs (CLEC) discussed that group’s particular focus on gas pipeline capacity shortages and resulting higher electricity costs.

The Energy & Environment Committee met again in July 2015, for two presentations.  First, committee member Jim Smith of Smith, Costello & Crawford updated members on three wind generated projects in the region.  Second, Secretary Matt Beaton and Undersecretary Ned Bartlett of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs briefed members on efforts by the region’s six governors to collaborate to address the region’s energy challenges.

In February 2016 the Energy & Environment Committee met with representatives from the Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and the Analysis Group, Inc. in Boston to discuss their study of New England electric reliability options, and in March of 2016 the Energy & Environment Committee met at the Canadian Consulate in Boston where Canadian Consul General David Alward led a discussion on a number of hydropower and wind proposals for supplying electric power in New England from Council members and their affiliates involved in those projects, including SunEdison, Emera, Hydro-Québec, Dong Energy, Anbaric and TDI New England

Regional Energy Forum

On June 30, 2014, The New England Council and  The New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted a Regional Energy Forum on New England’s Energy Challenges.   The forum was held at The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH.The New England region faces a unique set of energy challenges, from high electricity prices, to a lack of native energy resources, to insufficient pipeline and transmission infrastructure. As public and private stakeholders in New England work to address these challenges, the forum brought together key leaders from throughout the region for an interactive conversation about the short-term and long-term solutions to meet the region’s energy needs.Gordon Van Welie, President & CEO of ISO New England, delivered keynote remarks providing an overview of the region’s current energy situation and the challenges the New England states face in the coming months and years.  Following van Welie’s remarks, a panel of senior energy officials from four of the six New England states discussed the short-term and long-term solutions to these challenges.

Renomination of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur

In June 2014, FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur’s term as a FERC Commissioner expires.  Acting Chairman LaFleur was first appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, and confirmed by the Senate in July of that year.  A Massachusetts native, she is currently the lone FERC Commissioner who hails from east of the Mississippi River, and therefore the only member of the panel with a deep understanding of the New England region’s unique energy challenges.  Prior to joining FERC, Acting Chairman LaFleur had more than 20 years’ experience as a leader in the electric and natural gas industry. She served as executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid USA, responsible for the delivery of electricity to 3.4 million customers in the Northeast.

The New England Council wrote to President Obama in April 2014 urging him to re-nominate Acting Chairman LaFleur to the panel for a second year term as Commissioner.  In its letter, the Council stressed her extensive experience in the energy industry in New England and her record of support for policies and regulation that promote economic growth in the region.

In addition to The New England Council, many members of the New England Congressional delegation also expressed their support for Commissioner LaFleur’s re-nomination.  Led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), seven New England Senators signed on to a March 2014 letter to the President.  In April 2014, a group of 13 New England House members, led by Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), sent a similar letter to President Obama supporting LaFleur’s nomination to a second term.

In May 2014, President Obama nominated Commissioner LaFleur to a second term on FERC, and later that month, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to consider her nomination.  Prior to the hearing, the NEC wrote to Senator Mary Landrieu, the Committee Chair, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Committee’s Ranking Member, expressing its support for LaFleur’s confirmation.

Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion in New England

In 2014, natural gas represents 30 percent of the primary energy used in New England, with some 2.6 million customers. The region is also one of the most natural gas dependent areas in the United States for electric power generation, with natural gas used to produce 52 percent of its electric power in 2011. Although a substantial amount of production occurs fairly close to New England, there are no indigenous sources, making the region dependent on pipelines to deliver it.  Unfortunately, there is not currently sufficient pipeline capacity to meet with the growing demand in the region.

NEC member Spectra Energy has proposed a pipeline expansion project that would help address the shortage of pipeline capacity in New England.  The Algonquin Incremental Market (“AIM”) Project will provide New England with a domestically produced source of natural gas to support both its current and future demand. It is an infrastructure investment that expands the pipeline capacity of the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission system, and will allow for the transport of gas produced in the Marcellus shale formation into the Northeast, helping to meet the increasing demand while lowering energy costs.

In March 2014, The New England Council submitted formal comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which must approve the AIM Project.  It it’s letter, the Council outlined the demand for natural gas in New England and the many economic benefits of expanded pipeline capacity.  Accordingly, the Council urged FERC to approve the project.

 

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