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Over the next four to five years, New England’s power grid is expected to lose thousands of megawatts of electricity as power plants, such as Brayton Point in Somerset, head into retirement.
The planned shutdowns, including the closure of Plymouth’s Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station, will heighten demand for electricity from other sources, including plants fueled by natural gas. And some say New Englanders could see higher electricity prices without an ample supply of natural gas.
This is where Richard Paglia and his company, Houston-based Spectra Energy, come in. An upgrade to gas pipelines and gas storage capacity would expand supply and lower electricity prices, says Paglia.
Some critics of Spectra’s various infrastructure projects, including two men who locked themselves to the front gates of the company’s Burrillville compressor station over the summer, oppose greater use of fossil fuels.
"Without that project going forward, we will really be constrained," Paglia said during an appearance on WPRI’s Executive Suite. "We already pay the highest electricity prices in the country here in New England."
The costliest electricity in the country?
We thought this was worth a check.
Our research found that the average cost of electricity in New England is higher than other regions of the continental United States. But an emphasis on the words "region" and "continental" is important.
In August 2015, the average price of electricity for New England’s six states was about 18.1 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a price monitoring report issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Oct. 27.
The average price for electricity in the state of California, 18.2 cents, slightly exceeded New England’s average. But California’s averages were lower during the winter of 2015.
Also, in August, California’s region, which encompasses Oregon and Washington, had less expensive electricity than New England. Washington state’s average of 9.4 cents – the lowest in the country – helped hold the average price in its Pacific coast region to 15.7 cents.
In comparison, the average for Rhode Island this past August was 18.7 cents.
In the region that encompasses New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, the average was 16.5 cents.
In general, electricity was significantly less expensive elsewhere in the continental United States, away from the northeast and California coast.
But in a region that the EIA refers to as "Pacific Noncontiguous," which encompasses just Alaska and Hawaii, the average price of electricity was almost 27 cents.
Hawaii’s average electricity price was about 30 cents while Alaska’s was 21 cents.
A spokesman for Spectra, Creighton A. Welch, acknowledged that the New England region’s electricity prices are only highest in the continental United States.
"The main message here," said Welch, "is that it’s a shame New England’s electric costs are so high relative to nearby regions – especially when practically next door sits a vast supply of affordable, domestic natural gas – that they are limiting economic competitiveness and growth in the region. It’s critical that we solve this energy challenge."
New England had the priciest electricity in the continental United States according to a government report that compares New England to other regions of the country.
The same report shows that California’s electricity was more expensive than electricity in four of six New England states.
Meanwhile, Hawaii and Alaska are U.S. states and electricity within both of those states was more expensive than the New England region’s average. The average for the region that both states are grouped in was more expensive, too.
The statement is partially accurate, but leaves out important details. For this reason, we rate it Half True
WPRI.com, Executive Suite, "Providence’s economy; natural gas," Nov. 1, 2015. accessed Nov. 4, 2015.
U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Table 5.6.A. Average Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector," data for August 2015, released Oct. 27, 2015.
Email from Creighton A. Welch, Nov. 6, 2015.
Providence Journal, "Protesters arrested at entrance to Spectra station," Aug. 14, 2015.
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