Deputy Energy Secretary Highlights Northeast Pipeline Capacity issues at Southern States Energy Board

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The 59th annual meeting of the Southern States Energy Board took place this week in Louisville, Kentucky under the leadership of the commonwealth’s Governor, Matt Bevin.  

The annual meeting included presentations from such luminaries as the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Neil Chatterjee, and the Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette, and a panel discussion on the future of Energy with Oklahoma Governor, Kevin Stitt, Wyoming Governor, Mark Gordon, and Governor Bevin. 

Secretary Brouillette’s presentation focused on changes in the energy industry over the last 40 years since the Department of Energy was created in 1977. Specifically, the Deputy Secretary focused on three points during his presentation:  1) the need to protect existing infrastructure; 2) Having the right mixture of power generation fuels to ensure the affordability and reliability of electricity; 3) And the need to build new infrastructure to meet the needs of 21st energy consumption.  

In discussing the fuels needed to make energy affordable and reliable, Brouillette noted that coal and nuclear still comprise 43% of the nation’s energy mix even with the proliferation of renewable energy like wind and solar.   He noted how an affordable and reliable supply of energy is not possible if you’re philosophy is “none of the above except renewables” instead of adhering to an “all of the above” approach where a combination of fossil, nuclear and renewables to achieve this goal. 

Brouillette took pointed aim at the state of New York in his discussion of the need for new natural gas pipeline infrastructure to keep energy affordable and reliable in the Northeast – particularly New England.   

In April, in an op-ed published in the Westchester County Business Journal,  Energy Fairness discussed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statewide imposition of a moratorium on new natural gas pipeline construction in the state.  The lack of infrastructure has prompted New York’s natural gas suppliers like Consolidated Edison (ConEd) and National Grid to place moratoriums on additional requests from consumers for natural gas hook ups.  Even with additional purchased pipeline capacity, ConEd’s moratorium extends until 2023.  

The Deputy Secretary detailed how the steadfast opposition to additional pipeline infrastructure almost caused a blackout in Boston in January 2018.  The U.S currently exports liquified natural gas (LNG) to 34 nations on five continents.  Yet, in January 2018 a Russian LNG tanker was off-loading natural gas in Boston Harbor during a “polar vortex” event to meet the home heating and electricity demands of the region.   

New England has become increasingly reliant on natural gas for heating and power generation as it shifts away from heating oil and coal and nuclear respectively — in what can only be called the “Perfect Storm” for the lack of access to affordable and reliable energy.  Unfortunately, due to New York’s draconian actions blocking access to much-needed additional pipeline capacity, supply of this much-needed commodity is tight when demand is high.  

I only took a few economics classes during my undergraduate days more than 25 years ago.  One of the few concepts I learned is that when supply is tight and demand is high – price is high.

Not only has the lack of pipeline capacity led to high home heating and electricity cost – putting into question affordability, but it’s also put into question its reliability.   

For over 11 years, Energy Fairness has preached what it takes to maintain an affordable and reliable supply of energy.  A major variable to solving this complex equation in states like Massachusetts and New York is increasing natural gas pipeline capacity in these states.  Policymakers in New York and New England should drop their opposition to new pipeline capacity to make energy affordable and reliable to their consumers