If the weather takes a turn towards severe cold this coming winter, will New England have enough power to keep the electricity flowing and the heat on?

Eversource President & CEO Joseph Nolan is "deeply concerned" the answer is "no", and is asking President Joe Biden to take steps now that would help New England handle the anticipated power issues during a potentially prolonged period of severe cold this winter.

"ISO-New England, the region's electricity grid operator, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have acknowledged for months that New England will not have sufficient natural gas to meet power supply needs for the region in the event of a severe cold spell this winter. This represents a serious public health and safety threat," Nolan wrote in the letter.

Nolan said that imported liquid natural gas usually brought into a facility in Everett, Massachusetts, will not be available because of the possible stress on European markets.

"I ask that you direct the Secretary of Energy to convene all relevant parties to develop a plan to ensure the region is ready to meet the challenges one or more extreme winter weather events would present," Nolan wrote.

In anticipation of higher prices they'll pay for natural gas, rate hikes were applied for and approved by the Public Utilities Commission. Eversource customers will pay 22 cents per kilowat, along with Liberty. Unitil customers will pay 22 cents, and NH Electric Co-op 17 cents.

If the weather makes it necessary, Nolan asked the president to use the emergency powers at his disposal to make sure the region has enough fuel resources. They include:

      • Federal Power Act, which authorizes the Secretary of Energy to temporarily connect facilities to the grid to supply power
      • A waiver of the Jones Act, in order to "meet certain and temporary emergency needs in the interest of national defense" including the shipment of LNG between U.S. ports
      • An emergency order under the Natural Gas Policy that determines there is a severe natural gas shortage
      • Emergency authority under the Defense Protection Act to maximize domestic energy supplies

Shared Concerns About Energy

Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara said that his company shares many of the concerns raised by Nolan. However, it's not the first time concerns about the ability to provide power this winter has been raised.

"Our stance continues to be that the energy crisis our region is facing due to natural gas pipeline capacity issues is real, and that solutions are needed," O'Meara told Seacoast Current.

Until, Eversource, and other New England utilities participated in a tabletop exercise earlier in October about how they would communicate and work together in the event of a winter energy shortage.

“While this type of emergency is unlikely, it would be profoundly impactful and close coordination between all involved entities is paramount,” Peter Brandien, ISO New England’s vice president of system operations and market administration said in a statement. “Through exercises like this tabletop, ISO New England and the region’s utilities can work together to better understand how to best respond if these conditions materialize.”

Encouraging Signs for Now

The good news is that Europe's natural gas stocks are nearly full, which has driven prices lower to 4 month lows, according to a CNBC report.

Analysts warn that Asian demand could change all that as they seek supply from shrinking inventories because of a lack of gas from Russia. A boycott of Russian oil by European counties that begins in December will also impact prices and supply.

Journalist Joseph Mintz was the first to report on Nolan's letter.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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