LOWELL -- An independent energy study commissioned by the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick outlines a need for increased natural-gas pipeline capacity in Massachusetts over the coming years, bolstering the case for a pipeline-construction proposal that has drawn protests from residents and elected officials statewide.
"Insufficient natural-gas capacity for the electric sector has contributed to high wholesale gas prices to generators and thus high electricity prices," the report's executive summary states.
The report was released Thursday just minutes before Gov. Charlie Baker was sworn in as Patrick's replacement. The Patrick administration commissioned the $250,000 report from Synapse Energy Economics after talks over the summer about implementing a tariff to pay for more pipeline capacity prompted Patrick to look at the state's energy needs.
A major pipeline proposal from Kinder Morgan is in the pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company has touted the plan as one that will keep energy prices low and create jobs, while opponents have called the new infrastructure unnecessary and decried its potential impacts on the environment and personal property.
The company applied last month to reroute a portion of the pipeline through New Hampshire along existing power-line easements to lessen the impact on the environment and personal property, though protests from those opposed to the pipeline has persisted.
The study says that the natural-gas infrastructure has become "increasingly stressed during peak winter periods as regional demand for natural gas has grown."
That means gas prices are expected to spike during peak demand in the winter until the problem is addressed.
Other fuels, including oil, will be used to meet peak demand over the next four years, but additional pipeline capacity will be needed by 2020, the report concluded.
Synapse evaluated eight different scenarios, concluding that Massachusetts would face a shortfall of 0.6 billion to 0.8 billion cubic feet per day during peak demand in 2020.
The project proposed by Kinder Morgan could provide up to 2.2 billion cubic feet per day, though the company says they will design the project to accommodate only the amount of capacity that they have long-term contracts for.
If approved by FERC, Kinder Morgan hopes to have the pipeline in operation by 2018.
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