The closer coupling of the US natural gas system with our electrical system, as shown this past winter, has displayed the weaknesses in both systems. This winter’s experience has generated a lot of noise from the coal/nuke electricity industry for more coal and nuke plants, and from the natural gas industry for more pipelines, particularly into the Northeast.
Here’s the problem, these systems were only put under stress for a few days during winter peak load. Generating plants and pipelines are long term investments that are paid for by all rate payers. The fossil fuel industry wants us to build all this new capacity, or, worse yet, keep obsolete and dirty older plants operating, just so they can provide a little extra power a few days a year. This was exactly why PATH was such a bad way to solve perceived capacity problems in PJM.
It makes much more sense to invest in ways that will shave off peak load than it does to invest billions of dollars in capacity that may only be needed, if at all, a few days per year. That is what demand management resources do, and do very well.
Increased gas-fueled electric generation now offers a way for decentralized renewable power generation to reduce strains on both our electrical system and our natural gas system. The other significant advantage that solar and wind power have over all fossil fuel plants, of course, is that they don’t require any fuel at all. Almost all of this winter’s problems can be traced to fossil fuel shortages of one kind or another. So, no fossil fuel, no fuel supply problems.
This winter’s problems involved only the need for some additional marginal capacity in particular areas. This problem does not need billions of new dollars of new rate increases to solve. It needs better and smarter investment in decentralized renewable generation and demand management, not more fossil fuel capacity.