Utility CEO warns natural gas shortage could put New England at risk of blackouts this winter
Eversource CEO Joseph Nolan said the region's electricity grid operator, ISO-New England, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have acknowledged for months that New England will not have enough natural gas to meet the supply needs in the event of a prolonged period of frigid temperatures.
BOSTON - The head of New England's largest utility company, Eversource, is urging President Joe Biden to take action as concerns grow that the region won't have enough natural gas to heat homes and avoid blackouts this winter.
In a letter that was sent to Biden last week, Eversource CEO Joseph Nolan said the region's electricity grid operator, ISO-New England, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have acknowledged for months that New England will not have enough natural gas to meet the supply needs in the event of a prolonged period of frigid temperatures or other winter weather.
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"This represents a serious public health and safety threat," Nolan warned in the letter.
Eversource, along with other utility companies and New England states, has invested in clean energy projects, including offshore wind farms, that will reduce the region's natural gas dependency. However, electricity produced from those projects will not be brought onto the power grid for several more years, and New England will remain dependent on natural gas to meet electricity needs.
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"As both an energy company CEO and lifelong New Englander, I am deeply concerned about the potentially severe impact a winter energy shortfall would have on the people and businesses of this region," Nolan said in the letter.
The urgent appeal to Biden comes as people in New England are experiencing rising electricity and gas costs given the supply constraints and global price pressures following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Nolan.
"I respectfully urge you, Mr. President, to employ the emergency powers of the federal government to take all steps to ensure that adequate fuel resources will be available in the event of severe weather conditions in New England this winter," Nolan wrote.
Among those emergency powers that Nolan highlighted in his letter were the Federal Power Act, the Jones Act, the Natural Gas Policy Act and the Defense Production Act as potential ways to address the problem.
According to Nolan, ISO-New England explained that natural gas pipelines that serve New England operate at maximum capacity during the winter months. However, during prolonged periods of extreme cold, the pipelines can't fully supply the demand without "significant injections" of imported liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
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Another issue highlighted by ISO-New England is that New England is at the end of an interstate pipeline system and lacks large-scale, long-duration energy or fuel storage. Nolan said in his letter that the gas distribution and electric power systems depend on imported LNG, which will persist until the region has access to alternative long-duration energy storage infrastructure.
Nolan asked Biden to direct U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to develop a plan to ensure New England will meet the challenges faced when severe winter weather strikes the region.
"The need for action now is compelling," Nolan wrote. "Many of the solutions require advance planning because they may require actions by regulators, finding new resources, chartering vessels, arranging for additional fuel deliveries and other yet to be identified extraordinary actions."
Click here to read the full letter from Nolan to Biden.
The White House did not respond to FOX Weather's request for comment on this story.
WINTER HEATING EXPECTED TO CAUSE HOME HEATING COSTS TO SOAR BY 28%
Prepare to pay more to heat your home this winter
Americans will need to dig deeper into their wallets this winter as energy experts expect a significant increase in costs to heat homes across the country.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released the latest Winter Fuels Outlook report after analyzing NOAA weather and fuel price forecasts.
The agency said homeowners would pay between 5% and 28% more than last year to heat their homes through the winter.
"The NOAA forecast gives us a sense of how much winter fuels, how much natural gas a house is going to have to consume for heating," Chris Higgenbotham of the EIA told FOX Weather last month. "We combine that with our forecast for prices, and that helps us forecast what we think the average U.S. household is going to pay to heat itself this winter season."
The report said that the average household would spend $931, or 28% more than last year, to heat their home with natural gas between October and March.
Some relief will be made available to families struggling to pay utility bills this winter.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families, announced $4.5 billion in assistance to help lower home heating costs.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds, which are being distributed by the ACF's Office of Community Service, will go to states, territories and tribes to be not only used to subsidize home heating costs this winter and cover unpaid utility bills, but it will also help families to make cost-effective home energy repairs to lower heating and cooling bills in the future, according to a news release.