Liberty Utilities says no leaks, doesn't explain lost gas or who (you) pays for it
The Granite Bridge Pipeline with its 2 Billion Cubic Foot LNG tank looks like a done deal.
Liberty has racked up endorsements for Granite Bridge from a bipartisan group of 22 New Hampshire senators, backing from the labor unions, has held 75 meetings with town administrators and elected officials from the towns along the route, and three Chambers of Commerce (Nashua, Manchester and Concord) have intervened in the Granite Bridge docket before the Public Utilities Commission as supporters of the project. In addition to the millions of dollars being promised in tax revenues for the towns, Governor Sununu fully supports the project.
Many supporters reference the environmental benefit of switching from oil to gas heating. “Additionally Granite Bridge will make it possible to store and deliver natural gas to a greater number of New Hampshire customers, especially during a cold snap like we experienced this past winter, at a lower cost and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than home heating oil, the current alternative. Climate change is a real threat to all of us.
Increasing access to natural gas will reduce air emissions and help to fight climate change, as well as lowering our high energy costs in the short term while we work to create an energy future that will rely solely on true renewables, including solar and wind,” continued Fuller Clark.”
While it is true that burning gas produces 27% less CO2 than heating with oil, that doesn’t take the impact of methane leaked from the distribution system into account. And, the leaks in Liberty’s system are significant! According to Liberty’s 2017 Annual Report (page 49), they had “Unaccounted for Volumes” of 2.2% statewide. Methane or CH4 is a much more powerful Greenhouse Gas than CO2 over the first 20 years.
Moreover, there are much better alternatives for reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel heating. Former Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Chair, Ann Berwick, notes. “As the region struggles to abandon its use of fossil fuels, it should be moving from oil heat to new, efficient electric heating technologies, such as air-source heat pumps. As the electric grid gets cleaner, thanks to state laws requiring that electricity increasingly be generated by renewable resources, switching from oil to gas for heating instead of switching from oil to electricity would be a step in the wrong direction.”
A major policy problem in the NHSAVES program is that the overall electricity consumption of a building in the program must decrease. That stipulation makes it impossible to recommend an electric powered high efficiency air source heat pump system as a more sustainable and lower cost heating option than oil. For a look at the relative costs of different heating options, people can visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-home/home-energy-savings-program/heating-cost-comparison/
If all of Liberty’s “unaccounted for volumes” of gas are not due to leakage, Liberty should release a detailed explanation and data to support any claims otherwise. People should also understand that the lost gas is paid for by existing customers, so the utility has little incentive to fix the leaks.
This article has been submitted to the NH PUC and various media outlets for publication.
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