Major utility holding company National Grid has joined the partners backing the Access Northeast pipeline project to deliver natural gas to constrained New England markets, particularly power generators.

National Grid joins Eversource Energy (formerly known as Northeast Utilities), Spectra Energy and Spectra Energy Partners as a co-developer of the project, which was announced last September (see Daily GPI,Sept. 16, 2014).

The developers have executed memoranda of understanding with seven electric distribution companies to advance the project: Eversource’s four in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire; and National Grid’s three in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Access Northeast developers said they will identify other distribution companies that might participate.

“Once Access Northeast is operational, it is projected to save electric customers an average of $1 billion a year during normal weather conditions and even more during severe cold weather,” said Lee Olivier, Eversource executive vice president of enterprise energy strategy and business development.

Olivier cited a newly released ICF International study, commissioned by the project backers, on the impact that Access Northeast would have on New England’s regional gas and electricity prices. It concluded that, under normal conditions, the region could save $800 million to $1.2 billion annually. During the extreme 2013-2014 winter, Access Northeast could have yielded savings of $2.5 billion, according to ICF.

“Our customers are literally paying the price for the pipeline constraints we have here in New England,” said John Flynn, senior vice president of U.S. business development for National Grid. “We are joining Access Northeast to lower energy costs for our customers and to help improve and support the region’s economic vitality. This project will play a key role in helping New England achieve a sustainable energy future.”

Access Northeast would be an upgrade of existing pipeline facilities and market-area storage assets in New England to deliver, on peak days, up to 1 Bcf of gas for electric generation and other markets. The project would enhance the Algonquin and Maritimes pipeline systems, which directly connect to about 60% of New England’s gas-fired electric generation. The developers have formed an alliance with Iroquois Gas Transmission (see Daily GPI, Dec. 8, 2014), bringing the number of New England gas-fired generators served to more than 70%.

“Together, the Access Northeast developers serve 70% of the region’s electricity consumers and the pipelines involved already connect directly to 70% of the region’s gas-fired electric generation on their existing corridors,” said Bill Yardley, Spectra Energy president of U.S. transmission and storage.

An open season running through May 1 will enable other potential customers, including local gas distribution companies, to sign up for capacity. Shippers may select from multiple receipt point options along the Algonquin pipeline and the Iroquois pipeline systems at Wright, NY. Additionally, shippers may choose from Algonquin’s receipt points with other existing interconnecting pipelines: Texas Eastern Gas Transmission, Millennium, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, Columbia Gas, and Transco; as well as future connections. The project has an expected in-service date slated for November 2018.