Mass. Utility to Turn Down New Gas Customers Due to Pipeline Constraints

A utility in Massachusetts expects to start turning away customers who want to use natural gas for heating due to a lack of available natural gas, according to a recent article in the Boston Business Journal.

Berkshire Gas Spokesman Chris Farrell told the Journal that Berkshire Gas expects to declare a moratorium on new customers for its Franklin County territory by the end of the year. ‘And then, by mid-2015, the United Illuminating subsidiary will have to do the same for its adjacent Hampshire County territory, where UMass Amherst is its biggest customer,” the article states.

Berkshire Gas is declaring the moratorium because the utility can’t get enough gas, according to the Journal. ‘The company, which serves 38,000 customers in 20 cities and towns, relies on a pipeline spur that connects to Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas pipeline via a roughly 34-mile route through the Connecticut River valley area. And that spur is nearly at capacity. ‘Physically, we can’t force any more natural gas throughout our distribution system than we are currently feeding through it,’ Farrell says.”

The gas supply constraints in Berkshire’s eastern territory could be ‘the tip of the iceberg,” Farrell told the Journal.

Constrained gas supplies are also leading to utility rate increases elsewhere, according to a recent article on National Grid recently announced that its customers would see their electric bills jump nearly 50 percent from October to November.

‘This winter’s electric rates, which kick in Saturday, Nov. 1, will be 37 percent higher than last winter’s rates and 49 percent higher than current rates, according to National Grid spokesman Jake Navarro,” the article states. ‘The pipeline supply of natural gas to the area is unable to meet demand during particularly cold periods, when furnaces are burning the fuel to heat homes.”

‘It’s going to be a very expensive winter,” Secretary of Environment and Energy Affairs Maeve Vallely Bartlett predicted in August.

‘The grid has initiated a program encouraging [electric generating] plants to keep supplies of oil on hand during the winter, and Bartlett said natural gas plants could bring in liquefied natural gas, a more expensive fuel that can be delivered by ship when the region’s pipelines are tapped,” the article states.

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