Massachusetts is known for its smart, sustainable policies, and it is a reputation that is well deserved. The Bay State has been named No. 1 in energy efficiency by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy five years running.
Natural gas — which comprises 68 percent of Massachusetts’ energy supply — is key to the state’s success as an energy innovator and has positioned Massachusetts to successfully meet the Obama administration’s 2030 Clean Power Plan mandate.
However, without new capacity Massachusetts still faces an overwhelming 30 percent energy shortfall in 2030, based on Clean Power Progress’ methodology. Even if one assumed zero growth in energy demand, rather than the 14 percent increase in demand projected nationwide, Massachusetts would still be 21 percent in the hole for energy. Compounding the challenge to meet demand is the anticipated 2019 closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, a major source of power for the region.
Without new power resources, residents from Cape Cod to Pittsfield will face uncertainty as Massachusetts struggles to provide power to 1.2 million homes across the state. Renewables will help, but they’re currently very expensive and too intermittent to shoulder the full burden. Solar power projects sizable enough to handle the shortfall would cost $21 billion and cover an area twice the size of Boston with panels. That’s a hefty price tag for millions of Bay Staters who already face high energy bills, especially in winter.
Investing in expanded natural gas infrastructure would increase the energy capacity for New England’s homes and businesses year-round and would help Massachusetts meet 94 percent of its Clean Power Plan emissions reduction goals. And, as more renewables become available in Massachusetts, natural gas will still serve as a necessary back-up energy source.
New projects that can address the shortages are already in the planning phase. Just last month the Connecticut Expansion project cleared a procedural hurdle by obtaining a Clean Water Act certification. Access Northeast, Atlantic Bridge, the Salem Lateral Project and the Salem Harbor Station, which are in planning or under construction and have the potential to create hundreds of jobs, power as many as 200,000 homes and reduce air pollution that contributes to the premature deaths of 821 state residents each year.
From reliable, efficient energy to economic development and improved air quality, expanding Massachusetts’ natural gas infrastructure is a sure-fire win for the Bay State.