Energy efficiency gains can save individual consumers and businesses money, but as the United States struggles to transition to new types of energy sources, efficiency driven reductions in demand within a state or region may not directly translate into lower energy prices. On this topic, at the Portland Press Herald today, Tux Turkel has an excellent feature on a new analysis from ISO-New England that projects major energy efficiency gains for Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island. Much of these energy efficiency gains, writes Turkel, have been sparked by smart state spending to provide rebates and subsidies for lighting, heat pumps, and appliance updates.

Yet despite lower demand for energy from businesses and households, New Englanders are not likely to see their electric rates go down, explains Turkel.

As New England has closed its nuclear power plants and shifted away from coal power, the region is transitioning to greater reliance on more expensive Canadian hydropower. Most notably, however, the region has also greatly increased its reliance on natural gas, but has yet to benefit from the country’s low natural gas prices. Constrained supply lines into the region combined with cold weather spikes in demand the past few winters have combined to keep whole sale natural gas prices much higher than in other parts of the country. “These natural gas price spikes are like signal flares, warning us that there could be an economic disaster ahead for New England consumers and businesses,” MA Senator Edward Markey said earlier this year. “We need to bolster our capacity to bring domestic natural gas into New England.”

Though gas pipeline access in the region is a priority of Markey and all six New England governors, the expansion of this “fracking infrastructure” is strongly opposed by regional activist groups. Last week, for example, Rising Tide Vermont staged a protest opposing the expansion of a gas pipeline in that state with one protestor chaining herself to the front door of Vermont Gas and others hanging a banner from the utility’s roof. You can read more about the protest in a report by the Burlington Free Press’ Glenn Russell and watch the paper’s video report below.