Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Monday, July 29, 2013

And Now A Few Words About Northern Pass....

Having grown up in New Hampshire and still having family in the state, I can say with great certainty that Northeast Utilities massive transmission project, Northern Pass, is highly unpopular with residents there.

It's hard to go anywhere in the Granite State without seeing dozens of lawn signs in opposition to the project. And now, Jan Marvel and Michelle Vaughn have created a film that seems to capture the level of frustration many feel.

"Northern Trespass" premiered July 10th at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H., a theater where I spent many a Saturday afternoon as a small child.  Marvel and Vaughn are two amateur filmmakers, who put the documentary together on a small budget over a two-year period.

The Northern Trespass website  includes a link to a trailer of the documentary on YouTube.

Martin Murray, Northern Pass project spokesman, told the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader that the information in the video is "inaccurate and outdated."

"It is heavily focused on the false threat of eminent domain, which has been addressed by state law for over a year now," Murray said in a statement. "The current proposed route was created by working with willing landowners. The producers surely are aware of the facts surrounding this issue, yet chose to mislead the public."

He added: "New Hampshire is ready to debate this project on its merits, through honest debate. Unfortunately, this video only serves to distort the truth and mislead the public."
The 187-mile project, from the Canada-New Hampshire border to that state's southern part, calls for 7.5 miles of transmission line to be buried.

NU officials say the cheap hydropower that the transmission line will bring down from Quebec will translate into energy savings of between $20 million to $35 million for New Hampshire and from $200 million to $300 million for the New England region as a whole.

During the last legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers approved changes in the state's renewable energy portfolio to make it easier for the inclusion of hydropower in anticipation of when Northern Pass goes into service in mid-2017.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Grid Operator: Wholesale Electric Prices Fall In May

I've got a good news, bad news energy scenario for you.

First the good news: New England's regional grid operator is reporting that wholesale electric prices in May fell by nearly 10 percent from where they were in April. The average real time price for electricity for May was $38.46 per megawatt hour, down 9.9 percent from a month earlier, ISO-New England said this week.

Okay, now the bad news: Wholesale electric prices in May were still 37.4 percent higher than they were in May 2012.

ISO-NE officials say the two main drivers of wholesale electric costs are consumer demand and the cost of fuel used to produce the power.

 And while the average price of natural gas fell by 35 percent in May, the fuel is still 81 percent more expensive than it was at the same time a year ago. Demand for electricity in May was at 9,822 gigawatt hours, down 2.2 percent from where it was a year ago, according to the Holyoke, Ma., grid operator.

A gigawatt hour of electricity can power about 1 million homes for an hour.
 
You can look at these numbers two ways.

 One is that New England in May was only three months removed from its 10-year peak in average natural gas prices. With increased supply coming out of the Marcellus Shale deposits, the cost of the fuel can only go down.

But let's not forget the role that weather and other factors play in the price of natural gas and electricity.

The fact that the 10-year high occurred in the midst of the glut of fuel from Marcellus Shale suggests to me that perhaps estimates of how far the cost of natural gas and of electricity can fall are a tad optimistic. And with gas fired power plants accounting for 46 percent of the electricity generated in New England in May, all it would take is a long hot summer hot summer - or a hiccup in the region's natural gas supply - to eat away at those modest steps toward lower energy costs in the regions.

Look, I'm not an economist: Take my assessment for what you will. But when it comes to predictions made by state government officials that we're in for years of decreasing energy prices, don't believe the hype, either,



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