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Lights On: Controversial Options To Reduce Electricity Costs

BOSTON (CBS) -- Construction has begun on the one billion dollar New Salem Harbor Station.

Lights On Part 1: Energy Customers Grapple With Soaring Prices

Plant conversions are becoming more prevalent as coal and oil fired plants are phased out.

ISO New England reports over the past 15 years, oil's percentage numbers have dropped from 22 percent to just one percent. Coal fell 13 points. However, natural gas jumped 29 percentage points.

Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan, points to the 600-mile gas field that runs through Northern Appalachia, the Marcellus Shale, as the driving force behind the increase. He says it makes economic sense.

"We're talking about a 100 year supply, and the difference between what you're paying in New England compared to New York and Pennsylvania is about three billion dollars a year more, and that's due to supply constraints," he said.

Drilling, or fracking the gas wells is controversial, and so is the transportation component.

Kinder Morgan wants the government's green light for a high pressure natural gas pipeline that would run from New York state to Dracut. There are opponents.

State Attorney General Maura Healey has reservations.

"I'm concerned about a lack of transparency with respect to that pipeline," she said.

Community activists directly affected by the project have formed the group "Stop the Pipeline."

Ken Hartlage is a member. He lives in Pepperell and says this pipeline is overbuilt.

"Another argument that they are going to bring up is that power generators, power and coal are going to be coming off-line and they are probably going to be replaced by gas generators and we're going to need more gas to supply them," he said.

Tom Kiley is president and CEO of the Northeast Gas Association, with members serving about 10 million customers in eight states. The most recent Massachusetts pipeline proposal is Spectra's Northeast Access, which expands the existing Algonquin and Martimes pipelines rather than build new ones.

Announced in February, proponents say for every dollar spent, New England customers will save two-to-five dollars.

Northeast Access still needs the green light from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Meanwhile, construction has begun on the $1 billion New Salem Harbor Station. Scott Silverstein, president and CEO of Footprint Power, the project's developer, says this plant will be the most efficient thermal plant on the system.

While consumers grapple with rising electricity costs, there remains mixed reaction to a growing number of proposals on ways to ease the financial pain.

This is Part 2 of Mary Blake's week-long 'Light's On' series on the state of energy in Massachusetts.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mary Blake reports:

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