On the same day that Maine's highest court was pondering whether 25 percent of Maine's registered voters will successfully prevent hydropower from Canada from reaching New England, E&E published this prediction of skyrocketing natural gas prices next winter and the impact that will have on all of us.
As reported, the good news is that New England's transition from oil and coal to natural gas is basically complete. The less good news is that large scale renewable energy is not yet available. The New England Clean Energy Connect project was "plan A" to begin to transition from natural gas to renewable energy. There isn't a near term "plan B".
That means that for now natural gas is going to continue to be pretty much the sole source of our energy, albeit at a much higher cost. Those who hope for a different future might consider how our laws need to change to facilitate the large scale renewable energy projects that have up until now been delayed by permitting and litigation delays.
A combination of cheap natural gas and increasingly ambitious state climate policies in the last decade drove the region’s fleet of old coal- and oil-fired power plants into retirement. Gas has picked up much of the slack. ISO New England reports that the fuel accounted for more than half of the region’s power generation last year. But other large-scale renewable projects meant to replace New England’s retiring power plants have not come to fruition. A decades long effort to build offshore wind won’t yield its first major project before 2024. Maine voters blocked a transmission line that would have brought more hydropower from Canada into the region. And utility-scale wind and solar projects onshore have been few and far between. The challenges have been compounded by the region’s limited gas infrastructure.