Eversource: Canadian hydro will mitigate New England’s increased gas reliance

Northeast Utilities Service Co. d/b/a Eversource Energy Service Co. told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March 20 comments that a big hydro-related transmission project that it is involved in will be a key to getting some needed fuel diversity for increasingly gas-dependent New England.

Eversource was responding to a Feb. 18 fuel assurance report submitted by ISO New England within a FERC proceeding looking at fuel supply issues in the region. ISO-NE identified these challenges to fuel assurance in New England: significantly increased reliance on natural gas as a generating fuel; inadequate interstate natural gas pipeline capacity to keep pace with increased natural gas dependence by generation; and a need for increased dual-fuel generating capacity in the region.

“With expected fossil fuel plant retirements from clean air restrictions, generation fuel diversity in the form of large hydroelectric sources makes environmental sense and avoids over dependence on one fuel source,” Eversource wrote. “Fuel diversity increases reliability and can lower costs to New England consumers. The Northern Pass Transmission Project, under development by an Eversource Energy affiliate, will supply 1200 MW of clean, low-cost power from Hydro-Quebec hydroelectric plants in Canada which will displace mainly gas-fired generation and associated fuel assurance concerns. This project is not anticipated to be in service until 2018 which further supports the case for extending the Winter Reliability program until needed diversity of supply is in service.

“Renewable energy also is being added to New England’s generation mix through state renewable portfolio programs. Intermittent resources like wind or photovoltaic panels, however, will still require natural gas or hydroelectric generation to integrate them through load following and reserves services. While large hydro imports will increase fuel diversity into the region more firm natural gas supply is needed to meet expected deficits in firm supply. Added pipeline infrastructure is needed so that natural gas, the “fuel of choice,” is delivered more reliably.

“To address this expected deficit, Eversource Energy, National Grid, and Spectra Energy are partnering to develop the Access Northeast Project (‘Access Northeast’), which would deliver an expected incremental 1 BCF of firm natural gas supplies over upgrades to existing pipeline facilities. Expected to go into service in 2018, the project would provide scalable deliverability to Power Plant Aggregation Areas to directly provide firm fuel to 5000 MW of the most efficient gas generators under new Electric Reliability Services.

“Finally, Winter Reliability programs, similar to that done for winter 2014-2015, as proposed by ISO-NE should continue as an interim measure to address fuel assurance because they promotes fuel diversity by providing direct financial incentives to generators to maintain on-site oil inventories. These programs directly address concerns about generator reliance on inadequate pipeline deliveries, especially during periods of high natural gas demand.”

Notable is that on Feb. 2, Northeast Utilities announced that it is using the brand name “Eversource Energy” to provide a consistent name across its various public utilities and service company. The Eversource Energy Companies are The Connecticut Light and Power Co., Western Massachusetts Electric Co., Public Service Co. of New Hampshire and NSTAR Electric Co.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.