NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New England May Be Next To Experience Power Shortages

February 6, 2001

A new study warns that the six New England states could begin running short of electricity during peak winter periods as early as 2003 if they don't act quickly to build new natural-gas pipelines.

But environmental groups are fighting new plants and pipelines -- and, just as they did in California, are asserting that New Englanders can avoid a similar energy catastrophe by relying on conservation alone.

The study, commissioned by the nonprofit operator of the region's power grid, and conducted by Boston consultants Levitan & Associates Inc., observed that:

  • In recent years, New England -- like the rest of the country -- has been phasing out politically unpopular nuclear power plants and higher-pollution oil- and coal-burning plants.
  • New England is expected to get 45 percent of its electric power by burning natural gas by 2005, compared to just 16 percent in 1999.
  • But the region faces a shortage of local pipelines to distribute natural gas to New England markets -- while environmental and consumer groups oppose the construction of new lines.
  • By 2003, mild shortages of electricity are a serious possibility on the coldest winter days -- and by 2005, natural-gas-burning electric utilities will be unable to provide some 9 percent of the regions estimated total power-generating capacity during the two coldest winter months.

The author of the study, Richard L. Levitan, warned that in that case there would be "shocking economic consequences for New England consumers."

Source: Laura Johannes, "New England Soon May Face Shortage of Power in Winter," Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2001.


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