National Grid joins Access Northeast natural gas pipeline expansion plan
The expansion of the New England Transmission network is expected to be ready to go into service in November 2018. Lee Olivier, Eversource’s executive vice president of enterprise energy strategy and business development, said the project is being driven by the desire to reduce electric costs in New England as well as to ensure reliable electricity for residential and business customers.
“We expect to see significant cost savings,” Olivier said, adding that electric customers across the region will collectively save $1 billion in a winter in which temperatures are average. “Customers would have saved $2.5 billion during last winter’s polar vortex.”
There has been an increased focus on natural gas transmission capabilities in New England because it is used to run power plants that generate more than half of the region’s electricity. Because of that and a lack of existing capacity in the transmission system, there were shortages of the fuel last winter that drove up electricity prices.
Bill Yardley, Spectra Energy’s president of U.S. transmission and storage, said the problem of increasing demand for natural gas by power plant operators “is something we’ve been wrestling with for with for the past decade, if not more.” Spectra Energy is New England’s largest natural gas pipeline operator.
“The power market structure (in the region) has not provided incentives to plant operators to have firm (natural gas supply) capacity in place on the pipeline,” Yardley said.
“Having the (region’s) two largest electric companies together with the largest pipeline operator, we have our best shot yet to solve this issue,” he said. “Adding (National) Grid is just a huge piece to this puzzle.”
Eversource Energy has electric customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, while National Grid has power customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, in addition to the customers it has in New York State.
The natural gas transmission pipeline network is already connected to 70 percent of the electric generating plants, Yardley said. And because of that, Spectra Energy officials are “acutely aware that they (the power plant operators) need special services,” he said.
Spectra’s upgrade will combine some pipeline improvements with upgrades to existing liquid natural gas facilities in the region,” Yardley said. Smaller diameter pipes will be replaced with larger ones, he said.
“We’re providing a solution that will keep homes warm, keep the lights on, and keep costs down, even on the coldest days,” Yardley said.
“This project will make a real impact solving the region’s energy challenges. Together, the Access Northeast developers serve 70 percent of the region’s electricity consumers and the pipelines involved already connect directly to 70 percent of the region’s gas-fired electric generation on their existing corridors,” Yardley continued. “Natural gas will get to the plants it needs to, when it needs to.”
Access Northeast partners are reaching out to other electric utilities across New England to see if they are interested in participating in the project.