AG’s Office to Study New England’s Energy Needs

By ecoRI News staff

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office is leading a study of New England’s energy needs to evaluate options for cost-effectively meeting demand for electricity and natural gas while at the same time achieving necessary reductions in carbon pollution. The study is expected to be completed by October, and Attorney General Maura Healey has called for restraint in certifying new pipeline capacity contracts until the results of the analysis are available.

“This important step by Attorney General Maura Healey reflects the changing nature of our energy system, where diverse clean-energy resources can compete with fossil fuels,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “Massachusetts consumers deserve this full and fair analysis before they are called upon to pay for expensive new energy projects whose need has not been determined yet.”

In an analysis recently published in CommonWealth, Acadia Center described how proposals to spend up to $8 billion in ratepayers funds on new pipelines could:

Cause billions in stranded expenditures if natural gas prices shift.

Lead to large-scale natural-gas exports, forcing New England to compete with buyers in more expensive markets and potentially causing regional gas prices to increase by up to 45 percent.

Cause the region to exceed legally required carbon-pollution reductions by more than 100 percent.

Acadia Center’s analysis also describes how the performance of the regional energy system through last winter’s record cold demonstrates the logic of prioritizing low-risk steps, such as utilizing liquefied natural gas (LNG), tweaking energy market rules and investing in energy efficiency. Additionally, prices for LNG and oil — both of which can substitute for gas during periods of peak winter demand — have tumbled during the past year, making prior economic justifications of expanding pipeline capacity obsolete.

“With billions of dollars and billions of tons of carbon pollution on the line, we have to get the analysis right,” said Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director for Acadia Center. “Maura Healey is ensuring that investments benefit consumers and minimize risks of tying us to an overpriced and outdated energy system.”