Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Backwards to the Future: Carbon and Pollution Rise in New England

Pollution on the rise

On November 19, Heather Hunt, executive director of NESCOE, gave a presentation to the Northeastern Section meeting of the American Nuclear Society.   The presentation was titled New England Infrastructure Challenges.  Howard Shaffer and I drove down together, though it is always a bit of a struggle to drive to Boston and back again in an evening.  

In this case, the drive was well worth it.  Hunt's presentation about  proposed transmission lines, gas pipelines, and gas pipeline constraints was excellent.  As a matter of fact, you can see it for yourself. The presentation is posted online here: 

I was especially struck by one slide, showing the trends for carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). After years of lower pollution in New England, pollution trends from electricity production have reversed. Pollution from the electricity sector is on the rise. 

Slide by NESCOE, Based on EPA data
Courtesy NESCOE
Why is Pollution Rising?

The title of the talk was New England Infrastructure Challenges.  That is also the answer to the question.

For a while, pollution was falling as gas made more power and coal made less.  But then the gas constraints hit: there just isn't enough gas available for electricity production in the winter.  At that point, the grid operator pulled out all the stops to meet the demand. Coal, diesel, every fossil fuel and its brother were called into play. Some of the fossil fuel plants were called up ad hoc to meet demand, and some were part of the grid operators Winter Reliability Program, which depends on burning oil.  I describe this in a post from January 2014.

The Cold Truth on the New England Grid This Week, a High-Carbon Fuel Mix.

More pipelines for gas, and more transmission lines to Hydro Quebec, could alleviate this gas-crunch problem.  But such things take a long time to build.

However, it takes a very short time to decide to shut a nuclear plant!  Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim will no longer make clean energy for the New England grid.  Therefore, the demand for oil-fired and coal-fired and diesel-fired generation will rise during cold snaps, until all the new infrastructure can be built.

If the new infrastructure is actually built.  The number of people who will lie down in front of "fracked-gas"pipeline construction rivals the number of people who hate nuclear.  As a matter of fact, they are often the same people. I recognize some of them at meetings.

New England is going backwards to the future.

About NESCOE and about the Consumer Liaison Group of the grid operator

NESCOE  is the New England States Committee on Electricity. The important word is States.  This is a small committee, with members appointed by the Governors of the New England States. It keeps track of electricity issues as the states would perceive them.  I think NESCOE is a very good idea. Without it, the states would be individual and alone in trying to understand the implications of ISO-NE decisions. (ISO-NE is the grid operator.)  Heather Hunt is the Executive Director of NESCOE.  I appreciate her courtesy in sending me the slide above.

As it happens, I will see Hunt again tomorrow.  I am a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) for ISO-NE.  We are meeting in Boston tomorrow, and Hunt will be on the panel at our meeting.

Attendance is free: I encourage you to attend.  The subject is Transmission Planning in New England.    I share the announcement below, and you can find more information at the CLG web page for the meeting.

1 comment:

Travelogue for the Universe said...

What a lot of factors! My neighbors' land being threatened eminent domain suit by Canadian Gas. Gaz wants Transmission (through) lines. They want to go from Alberta Tar Sands to the US coast. I liked nuclear. The opponents of nuclear rejoiced when Yankee closed. Now the consequences emerge. Thank you for keeping us in the loop!