Liberty Utilities is planning more than a [gas] plant
Letter to the Editor (Published on this site on 5/19/17)
On Monday night, Keene's Planning Board will hear Liberty Utility’s plan to construct a temporary CNG/LNG decompression plant on Production Avenue.
I understand that the Propane/Air system is decades old and should be updated. If you're a Liberty customer, having the utility invest in upgrading the lines and feeder plant makes sense.
The difficult truth though is that when Liberty builds that final permanent plant, it will also be there for decades. To me, it is capitulation.
Keene has been a leader in sustainability. Keene uses biodiesel for its fleets. Keene uses methane from landfills to heat its buildings. The College heats with 100% cleaned vegetable oil for a large share of its campus.
Why shouldn't Keene join Hanover in committing to being 100% fossil free by 2050?
I encourage people to visit the Efficiency Maine website and use their fuel comparison calculator. It is very likely that an air source heat pump will be a better long term choice for heating than natural gas. In all other regions of the United States, the EIA reports that use of natural gas for heating has fallen in favor of heat pumps. Only the Northeast is using more natural gas.
And here’s the sad truth…
Liberty is working to justify a pipeline. It is expanding service in Lebanon, Pelham, Keene and Concord. In a letter to the PUC, Liberty asked for an extension on filing its Least Cost Integrated Resource Plan because it's going to be announcing a "new source of supply or capacity." They were given an extension until August.
Of course, even with all the increase in demand that Liberty hopes to show, the number of customers it has in New Hampshire will never cover the cost of a pipeline. Berkshire Gas is doing something very similar in Western Mass. I predict that the capacity of the pipeline will be justified by export contracts and the “need” by critical shortages in Liberty (and Berkshire Gas) territories.
The PUC has issued an order on Liberty’s latest rate case. In the rate case, Liberty petitions to make Keene an official part of Liberty. A consequence of that is that distribution rates in Keene will drop about $10 per month for the average household and go up about the same amount for its other customers. The price of the actual gas is separate from the distribution charges. The PUC’s order presses the pause button on the rate change and calls for public hearings.
From a financial angle, this looks like a “win” for Keene, but is it? Do you think gas prices will stay low when LNG exports take off? Keene is brimming with smart people who believe we need to move to a clean energy economy. I hope they are paying attention.
Patricia A. Martin
Published on the Keene Sentinel site on 5/22/17