BOSTON >> The New England region does not need additional natural gas pipelines to maintain a reliable flow of energy for the next 15 years, according to a study commissioned by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and released Wednesday.
The report concludes that the region will be able to meet electricity needs through 2030, even on the coldest of winter days, "with or without electric ratepayer investment in new natural gas pipeline capacity."
Authors of the study, conducted by economic and financial consulting company Analysis Group Inc., said they took into consideration the recent announcement by the owners of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth that they planned to close by 2019, resulting in a loss of 680 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power more than 600,000 homes.
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. which is seeking to bring a $3.3 billion natural gas pipeline into New England through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, labeled the study "seriously flawed" and said the recommendations would do nothing to lower the region's high electrical costs.
But Healey, a Democrat, said the report shows how the region can address its energy needs in cheaper and environmentally cleaner ways.
"This study demonstrates that we do not need increased gas capacity to meet electric reliability needs, and that electric ratepayers shouldn't foot the bill for additional pipelines," Healey said in a statement, adding that a more cost efficient solution was to "embrace energy efficiency and demand response programs that protect ratepayers and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
While investing in new pipelines could significantly lower wholesale prices for electricity, the report said, it would also require long-term commitments and up-front costs that pose significant risks for ratepayers.
Increasing natural gas capacity through additional pipeline could also hurt the ability of New England states to meet existing climate change goals, the study concluded.
Healey said she sent a copy of the study to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is reviewing the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal. The company, in its statement, said the report "focused only on the electric power market in Massachusetts and the region, ignoring the need for more natural gas from local gas utilities struggling to meet increased demand from residents and businesses seeking to switch from oil to gas."
The New England region, for the past two winters, has spent about $7 billion more for electricity than other regions of the country that have easier access to natural gas, the company said.
Environmental groups praised the study's conclusion that additional pipelines were unnecessary.
"Adding more gas pipeline infrastructure to a region already over-reliant on natural gas defies economic sense, environmental sense and common sense," said Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation.