Skip to content

New England Facing A Winter Energy Crisis That Was Largely Preventable

January 4, 2018

By Paul Homewood


From Climate Change Dispatch:



While New England’s power grid operator predicted it would have enough energy supplies to meet demand this winter, it admitted there could be problems if record-low temperatures set in.

“While New England has adequate capacity resources to meet projected demand, a continuing concern involves the availability of fuel for those power plants to generate electricity when needed,” grid operator ISO New England reported in November.

“During extremely cold weather, natural gas pipeline constraints limit the availability of fuel for natural-gas-fired power plants,” the grid operator noted.

That’s exactly what is happening right now.

Unrelenting cold since late December has caused energy demand to spike, pushing up prices and straining supplies. New England power companies are struggling to keep up with demand.

New England’s current energy woes are the result of years of state and federal policies aimed at closing coal and oil-fired power plants, largely as part of the region’s effort to fight global warming.

In 2000, New England got about 18 percent of its electricity from coal plants. Now, the region gets around three percent — though it’s jumped to six percent in the recent cold snap.

The Brayton Point Power Station, New England’s largest coal plant, shut down over the summer. Plant operators decided to close the plant in 2013 after putting in expensive cooling towers to cut pollution.

Most of the shuttered capacity has been replaced by natural gas, but pipeline capacity has not kept up with demands from power plants.

When temperatures drop, natural gas demand spikes as residents clamor to stay warm. But, like in 2014, New England’s pipeline capacity hasn’t expanded enough to fully meet demand during such cold snaps.

Environmentalists have contributed to the problem by protesting large pipeline projects power operators wanted to increase gas deliveries. Things got more complicated when the  Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled companies could not enter into long-term gas contracts and pass those costs onto consumers.

The court ruling killed the planned $3 billion Access Northeast pipeline project. The project would have expanded an existing New England pipeline and was expected to save customers $1 billion a year.

A second $3 billion pipeline plan, the Northeast Energy Direct project, was mothballed in 2016 amid stiff political resistance.

Gas supply constraints have made New England the world’s most expensive power market. Some power plants have taken to burning oil to generate power, but supplies are running low. Federal air quality regulations are also keeping power plants from burning more fuel.

“The region’s natural gas delivery infrastructure has expanded only incrementally, while reliance on natural gas as the predominant fuel for both power generation and heating continues to grow,” the ISO reported in its winter outlook, which was released at the end of November.

“Further, the retirement of a 1,500 MW coal- and oil-fired power plant in May has removed a facility with stored fuel that helped meet demand when natural gas plants were unavailable.”

The ISO identified 4,000 megawatts of natural gas power capacity “at risk of not being able to get fuel when needed.”


This is the sort of thing that happens when eco-polices are allowed to get in the way of energy policy, and could have been easily predicted.

One other comment – where is all of this wonderful renewable energy when you need it?



Meanwhile another news story from CCD describes how the US is using more natural gas than ever during this freeze up:


The U.S. broke a record Monday for most natural gas ever burned amid a prolonged winter freeze that as covered half of the country under a thick layer of snow.

Americans used more gas during the most-recent cold snap than they did during the so-called polar vortex that covered the U.S.’ eastern half with arctic air in 2014, according to data from PointLogic Energy, an oil and gas firm that monitor gas usage.

The country consumed more than 143 billion cubic feet of gas as temperatures dipped to all-time lows on New Year’s Day, the data show. Prices for natural gas skyrocketed to the highest level in a month — gas is not the only fossil fuel states are turning to for warmth this winter.

Coal-fired power generation also jumped from around 20,000 megawatts on Christmas to more than 45,000 megawatts, according to a Dec. 29 report from Bloomberg. Demand for oil also jumped sixfold, Bloomberg reported.

  1. January 4, 2018 11:20 am

    Yes, no mention of wind turbines frozen solid but still consuming energy and no mention of solar panels buried under snow, but still consuming energy.

    Once they realise that they cannot rely on the establishment to deliver a sensible energy policy, more and more people will be buying their own generators and installing fuel storage tanks.

    • Posa permalink
      January 4, 2018 2:47 pm

      These can be great teaching moments… especially when kids and students see the dogma is failing

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 4, 2018 6:52 pm

      “No mention of wind turbines frozen solid but still consuming energy and no mention of solar panels buried under snow, but still consuming energy

      Wind turbines yes, but there’s no reason for solar panels themselves to consume energy when they are not actually producing any, unless installed without reverse polarity diodes, and directly charging batteries. On grid connected subsidy farms they will only be providing DC to the input stage of the attendant inverters. These will probably have some parasitic draw from the grid (powering the control circuitry), but I very much doubt it will be as much as is needed to turn and/or defrost massive turbine blades.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    January 4, 2018 11:25 am

    As with South Australia, a large-scale (ideally state-wide) blackout will be needed to concentrate minds.

    Nearly true is ‘You can have green, or you can have dependable’ power

    • Colin Brooks permalink
      January 4, 2018 1:09 pm

      The gov has decided that giving us reliable power is a lesser priority than pretending to save the planet.

      • Posa permalink
        January 4, 2018 2:49 pm

        Don’t blame “the government” … the population overall has been clamoring for Green Energy…

      • Colin Brooks permalink
        January 4, 2018 4:06 pm

        Damn! I must have missed that!


      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        January 4, 2018 9:14 pm

        Only because of the barrage of publicity about renewables being clean and cheap.

  3. Ben Vorlich permalink
    January 4, 2018 11:36 am

    A heat and light source combined
    Aladdin Mantle Lamps

    We had one when I was growing up in the 1960s, you can certainly read by the light and a significant amount of heat is produced. Certainly good enough for short power outages.

    • Colin Brooks permalink
      January 4, 2018 1:15 pm

      For those prices I could probably buy a small nuclear power unit hehe

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 4, 2018 7:00 pm

      I still have an old Bullfinch gas lantern (identical to the link below), and several LPG cylinders to power it, but it would be a last resort, what with my more modern backups. I really should make sure I have some spare mantels, as these become quite fragile once “burned in”. – I don’t remember what I paid for it (at least 30 years ago), but was probably comparable in real terms to this stockists current price.

  4. January 4, 2018 11:57 am

    The northeast and New England areas are run by Democrats: NY, NJ, CT, MA, VT, etc. This is what happens when states and cities are in their clutches for sustained periods of time. NY has put heavy restrictions on fracking even though they are sitting on a lot of gas-producing shales.

    There is now a strong storm moving up the east coast. Temperatures here have been in the single digits and below zero for more than a week with another week to come. While this is not frequent, it occurs every few years.

    New England is in trouble of their own making. The citizens continually vote for these nitwits, but trust me they will be squealing and shrieking while looking for someone to blame. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy–a northeaster–dumped about 4′ of snow in WV and moved up the East coast. West Virginians got out their chain saws and 4-wheel drive vehicles and helped their neighbors while New Jersey whined and cried for the government to save them. Well, now they have another northeaster–deal with it.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 4, 2018 1:42 pm

      So in effect the right people are going to be suffering due to their political choices.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 4, 2018 9:17 pm

      I am sure that those New Englanders will blame Trump.

      • January 5, 2018 12:52 pm

        But of course. Just as a tiger is a tiger, a liberal is a liberal.

        I am so grateful that my New England ancestor, Edward FitzRandolph, who came on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, moved to New Jersey before he died. Then his great, great grandson, Robert, who served in the American Revolution from both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, hot-footed it to northwestern Pennsylvania in 1789, to Meadville in Crawford County. I shudder to think about growing up in New England or New Jersey. Yikes.

  5. Chris Lynch permalink
    January 4, 2018 12:08 pm

    A perfect example of ideology meets reality.

  6. January 4, 2018 3:19 pm

    This part of the country elects, and keeps in office a host of eco-moron politicians: Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Sen Marky (Mass) Cuomo (NY). This is self-inflicted.

  7. January 4, 2018 4:35 pm

    And just today from The Washington Examiner:

    We rest our case.

  8. John Peter permalink
    January 4, 2018 4:42 pm

    “Don’t blame “the government” … the population overall has been clamoring for Green Energy…”

    Rather I would suggest that ‘the population’ has been thoroughly indoctrinated to clamour for Green Energy by Gore and down. What can they do when the TV stations, papers and the politicians all present the same climate change propaganda?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: