Moratorium on New Natural Gas Service
HG&E natural gas customers are served by Tennessee Gas Pipeline's Northampton Lateral, which has become severely constrained due to a dramatic increase in demand over the last two decades. Unfortunately, there has been no corresponding increase in pipeline capacity to deliver additional supply to the region. Both Berkshire Gas and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (CMA), which are also served by the Northampton Lateral, have had moratoriums on new gas services since as early as 2014. Over the last several years, HG&E's load has grown significantly and is now operating at capacity during peak periods. As a result, HG&E is forced to impose a moratorium on new natural gas connections until the capacity issue is addressed.
As of January 2019, HG&E is unable to accommodate new natural gas service requests due to the lack of natural gas availability in the region. Customers can make improvements to their existing gas service (i.e. replace a gas furnace, gas stove, or gas hot water heater), so long as the load profile does not increase and the service was active as of December 31, 2018. HG&E may be able to accommodate certain commercial and industrial requests; depending on the specific load profile, and the ability for those new customers to utilize dual fuel during peak periods, on HG&E's interruptible rate.
The Economic & Environmental Impact
While inexpensive natural gas has never been more plentiful in the United States, there is insufficient pipeline capacity in our region to deliver additional load. Recent proposals that would increase natural gas capacity in the region have been met with opposition, and the current pipeline constraints are causing significant adverse environmental and economic impacts on the region's ratepayers.
With the retirement of many coal-fired electric plants and several nuclear generators, New England has become more dependent on natural gas to provide the region's electricity. Natural gas emits approximately 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and oil. During peak demand periods, due to the lack of natural gas, more electric generators are forced to switch to oil, while coal generators are called upon to operate, causing significant spikes in greenhouse gas emissions. ISO New England reported that during a 15-day cold spell in January 2018, over two million barrels of oil were burned to generate electricity due to the lack of natural gas, more than the total amount of oil burned in 2017.
In addition to increased emissions, the lack of natural gas has a significant impact on energy costs throughout New England. At times during the 2018 cold spell, the spot price for natural gas in the northeast reached over $100 per dekatherm (dth), compared to an average of less than $7/dth in other areas of the country. These price spikes translated to approximately $700 million increase in energy costs for New England ratepayers compared to the prior year.
HG&E's Natural Gas Future
After evaluating several options, HG&E has identified a solution that involves a cooperative effort with CMA. The plan requires CMA to obtain certain approvals for system upgrades in other communities, HG&E is working with CMA to determine the viability of those approvals. This solution will address local capacity issues, which will help reduce regional carbon emissions, improve reliability, and support local economic development.
If you are interested in natural gas service in the future, please visit complete the Natural Gas Service Interest Form. HG&E will review new service interest and requests as soon as the capacity issue is adequately addressed.