BOSTON — Following recent reports that it’s getting harder for New England utilities to warm consumers and power energy-intensive industries during frigid days when demand spikes, a consumer group today launched a campaign to inform families and businesses about what it’ll take to avoid being left in the dark: more natural gas.
The “Power On” campaign, launched by Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), a national advocacy organization representing families, manufacturers, agriculture, transporters, distributors, energy producers, renewables and other industries, will focus on educating New Englanders about the central role energy generation and natural gas plays in their everyday lives and budget.
As part of the campaign, CEA is releasing a series of ads and videos that connect the dots on how clean natural gas is an essential – and cost-effective – ingredient in many of life’s must-haves and enjoyments. From the energy used to make beer to the electricity generation that powers our own football champions’ stadium, “Power on New England” will provide statistics and details about the various benefits natural gas infrastructure provides that New Englanders often take for granted – plus the need for a balanced energy policy going forward.
“Natural gas is a driving force behind enjoying the outdoors, watching sporting events and spending time with friends and family – all by keeping energy affordable and reliable,” said CEA President David Holt. “That’s why this campaign is more vital now than ever, especially as the region struggles to meet demand on high-energy days in the winter and consumers pay the highest retail electric rates in the U.S. We all agree that diversifying our energy mix with more renewables is a great idea, but we have to also recognize that we will need – and must have – natural gas now to keep our power on.”
Per recent data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), six of the top ten states with the highest electricity prices reside in New England with electric rates more than two-thirds higher the national average. In all, New England ratepayers have paid about $7 billion more for electricity in recent winters than those in other regions with easier access to natural gas.
And unless immediate steps are taken to upgrade and expand its bottlenecked pipeline infrastructure, electric bills could escalate further, leaving even bigger holes in families’ pockets and manufacturers’ bottom lines.
The launch comes after a recent analysis from CEA showed that New England could sustain an additional 9.5 percent electricity generation capacity shortfall by 2030 on top of the 30 percent it’s already slated to lose by 2020 if all pipeline proposals were rejected and more baseload generation options went offline. This shortfall would occur even if local renewable power capacity increased by 300 percent, per long-shot federal projections.
“While renewable energy resources are a growing and important part of the electricity mix, they alone cannot provide enough affordable and reliable energy to meet our demands,” Holt said. “In 2015, Massachusetts received just over nine percent of its power from renewable energy. It’s time to start engaging in the conversation about how we develop and diversify our energy resources, but more importantly recognize their impact on New England’s economy.”
Previous reports by the region’s non-partisan grid regulator ISO New England warned that grid reliability is being put at risk without more natural gas. “On the coldest days of the year, a significant portion of the region’s power plants can’t get the fuel they need to generate electricity,” Gordon Van Welie, CEO of ISO New England, reportedly said, adding that without more natural gas, grid managers may have to resort to ordering “controlled power outages.”
“Power On” goes live today with the launch of a website (http://consumerenergyalliance.org/poweron/), video series and information campaign that will be supported by advertising across New England. For more information visit http://consumerenergyalliance.org/poweron/ online.