Chesto means business: Power Struggle
Talking Points Newsletter
The Boston Globe
Power struggle: It’s a recurring theme for the man in charge of making sure the lights stay on in New England: The electricity grid faces reliability risks on frigid days when natural gas gets diverted from power plants to heating customers.
Kinder Morgan pulled the plug on a big pipeline last spring. And then the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court nixed the way Spectra Energy had planned to pay for its Access Northeast pipeline expansion. Following that ruling, regulators in other states threw up roadblocks.
Meanwhile, Brayton Point’s turbines will shut down this year, and the Pilgrim nuclear reactor is slated to retire in 2019. Van Welie’s winter options include financial incentives for natural gas plants to burn oil as a backup. In extreme cases, he concedes, the grid operator may need to resort to ordering “controlled power outages.”
Unfortunately, we won’t have a regional grid that primarily relies on renewable sources and power storage anytime soon.
Last year’s winter was mild. But van Welie has been in New England long enough to know he can’t depend on always having more of those.
Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter.