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National Grid settles on two proposals to address looming gas shortage

The National Grid gas meter on an East

The National Grid gas meter on an East Islip home, March 26, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

National Grid, after months of analysis and thousands of public comments, is recommending two potential solutions to address its projections for a looming natural gas shortage: the $1.44 billion undersea pipeline it has long sought or upgrades to existing facilities combined with green-energy measures.

In a report released last week as part of a settlement with the state, National Grid said COVID-19 and other factors led it to further lower its projections for increases in downstate demand for natural gas into the low single digits through next winter and for 15 years beyond.

In the report, National Grid narrowed a list of around a dozen different options to two that it recommends for addressing the anticipated shortage during the period: moving ahead with its long-planned Northeast Supply Enhancement undersea pipeline which will increase local gas capacity by 14 percent, or enhancements to its existing facilities including two “combustion vaporizers” in Greenpoint that can increase gas capacity, along with measures to reduce customer demand and increase efficiency.

Cameron McKennitt, a National Grid vice president and lead author of the report, said the enhancement/efficiency option relies on a roughly 50-50 split of system enhancements and demand response/efficiency measures to reach the goal.

In the end analysis, the report indicates the enhancement/efficiency option would be the “preferred” choice given a “balanced assessment,” though it says the pipeline option was considered less risky in terms of reliably delivering gas through the period.

The company, which endured the wrath of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year after it declared a moratorium on new gas hookups in the region, earlier this year had drawn up a list of a dozen options, which included an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal, gas barges, new land terminals and enhancements for an existing pipeline called Iroquois that lands in Commack.

New cost analysis in the report indicated that in a high-demand scenario the pipeline would cost customers around $1.21 a month, while the enhancement/efficiency option would be around $1.50 a month. (The cost comparison largely reverses in the low-demand scenario, with the pipeline costing most per month).

McKennitt said the company would now work with the state and stakeholders to move forward on recommendations.

Lee Ziesche, an organizer for Sane Energy Project, which opposes National Grid’s efforts to expand natural gas facilities, said, “Thousands of New Yorkers spoke out against the Williams Pipeline and the expansion of fracked gas infrastructure in North Brooklyn yet those are the two options National Grid is proposing to raise our bills to pay for.”

She accused the company of presenting “misleading data that fails to show the real climate impacts of fracked gas infrastructure …”

The state next week is expected to release a decision on an environmental permit for the pipeline project. It has twice rejected developer Williams Co.’s request for approval in the past two years.

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