Thomas Gehrke

With the holiday season here, we must act now to prevent the possible catastrophic electricity grid failure that Gov. Ned Lamont warned about earlier this month.

If we do nothing, frigid temperatures could have a kryptonite effect on our grid and leave Connecticut residents in the dark, and some without heat.

We have warned about this possible scenario three times now: first to Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2014, then to  Lamont in 2020, and then again to Lamont this month.

Now, it appears that Governor Lamont has joined us by sounding that same alarm. During a November 5  press conference, he said: Severe weather could make matters worse, by driving up demand for natural gas, which in turn could compromise the reliability of the region’s electricity grid.”

While the governor indicated the problem was due to the global increase in energy costs, we believe part of the supply issue started here at home.

Putting the cart before the horse

Connecticut’s policies to promote the conversion of homes and businesses to natural gas and electric heat pumps have put the cart before the horse. The region’s electricity grid has not been updated to keep up with all these new conversions that the state has been incentivizing. If the lights go out this winter, and residents are unable to heat their homes, Connecticut’s ill-advised policies are part of the problem.

We are once again asking Governor Lamont to use his executive powers to halt all efforts to promote natural gas and electric heat pump conversions until all reliability issues have been addressed. The current electrification efforts and natural gas conversion policy endanger public welfare and can be avoided if he acts now.

A homemade problem 

During the last decade, Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) have pursued a number of state-backed initiatives aimed at encouraging homes and businesses to convert from home heating oil/bioheat fuel and propane gas to natural gas and electric heat pumps. The agencies also promoted plans to encourage motorists to drive electric vehicles (EV’s).  At the urging of the state, more people are using electricity and natural gas to power their homes and cars, and we agree with the governor that the power grid could get maxed out if severe weather takes hold of the state.

Natural gas is the primary fuel  

To make matters worse, natural gas is the primary fuel used by power plants to make electricity. So, the state’s energy policy is creating a bottleneck of customers that could overload the grid for everyone.

According to regional grid operator ISO-NE, the use of natural gas for electric generation has increased from about 15% in 2000 to over 50% today in New England, with projections of more than 60% by 2025.

Eggs in one basket

The ill-advised policy of  “putting all one’s energy eggs into one basket” makes utilities particularly vulnerable to gas supply-reliability, and pricing.

With a new state law (PA 21-181) that requires the use of low carbon renewable liquid fuel there is no reason to continue the natural gas conversion plan from an environmental standpoint, let alone energy security.

Consumers have been let down by power failures, and ever-increasing electric rates, which are in part because of a poor state energy policy. Connecticut consumers pay some of the highest electricity rates in The United States. We should not have to worry about if the grid will crash and burn this winter, but here we are again, sounding the alarm.

The deliverable fuel industry like home heating oil/bioheat fuel and propane gas provide an environmentally friendly fuel source and take some of the burden off the electricity grid, which is overloaded. We don’t rely on power lines to deliver fuel to our customers. We deliver by road, by rail, by barge, and by pipeline, which makes it the most reliable source of energy today.

It is time for Governor Lamont to avoid repeating the mistake that his predecessor made, and take action to mitigate the potential of a power failure.

Chris Herb is President of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association.