A Jan. 14 letter to the editor argued that the recent cold snap proved the need to expand gas pipelines. So, what exactly is the problem?

According to ISO-New England, the regional grid operator, the system load during the cold weather has been about 70 percent of the summer peak, and the system has been operating normally. There hasn’t been any shortfall in generating capacity, and there is plenty of capacity in reserve.

Extreme cold weather occurs in about 5 percent of the hours the system generates power in a year. Although increased oil generation in cold weather may cause a temporary spike in pollution, the New England system’s annual total emissions have been flat or declining for years – the result of investment in clean energy.Why should we invest billions in gas pipelines to reduce temporary spikes in emissions? Let’s invest in clean renewables, not increase our dependence on fossil fuel.

Although there are price spikes in extreme cold weather, new gas pipelines aren’t necessarily the solution to that problem. In mid-Atlantic states with ample pipeline capacity, prices still spike during cold weather. During the last major cold snap in the winter of 2014-15, electricity prices in that region exceeded those in New England, and that region has experienced a similar trend of high prices over the past weeks.

Instead of $1 billion investment in pipelines, we can limit price spikes by taking better advantage of existing liquefied natural gas storage, investing in energy efficiency and fixing leaking infrastructure.

If expanding gas pipelines makes economic sense, Big Oil and pipeline companies can invest their own money to make it happen. Instead, they have conditioned their projects on ratepayer subsidies. If it’s too big a risk for their own money, we shouldn’t let them gamble with ours.

Dan Amory

trustee, Conservation Law Foundation

Portland


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