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ISO-NE Expects Adequate Winter Resources, but Fuel Availability Worries Persist

ISO New England said it expects to have the necessary resources this winter to meet demand under both normal and extreme temperatures. Consumer demand is expected to peak at 20,476 megawatts (MW) under normal weather conditions (defined as 7 degrees Fahrenheit) and roughly 21,173 MW at extreme temperatures (2 F).

Even so, more than 4,500 MW of natural gas-fired generating capacity is at risk of not being able to get fuel when needed. Ongoing natural gas pipeline constraints could make it difficult for some power plants to receive fuel during extended periods of extremely cold weather. Oil and liquefied natural gas deliveries also could be impacted, ISO-NE said.

This winter season also marks the first since the retirement of the 688 MW Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station last May. ISO-NE said the retirement coincided with several new resources coming online, including three dual-fuel plants configured to use either natural gas or oil to produce power, as well as solar and wind resources. The region had a preview in January 2018 of how it could cope without Pilgrim's baseload capacity. 

During an extreme weather event that month, Entergy Corp. shut the nuclear station after one of the two lines that connect the reactor to the grid failed. Even with the loss of Pilgrim, ISO-NE reportedly had a reserve of more than 2,100 MW of generating capacity. The region usually gets about half of its power from gas-fired generators, but received more electricity from oil-fired units instead of gas during the January 2018 event.

In the weeks after the 2018 storm, the Energy Department said that a constrained natural gas pipeline network across the Northeastern U.S. led to a "significant increase" in oil-fired and dual-fuel generation in New England, New York and, to a lesser extent, in the Mid-Atlantic. Day-ahead daily average peak-period power prices for Jan. 5, 2018, one of the coldest days of the "bomb cyclone" weather event, reached $247 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in New England and New York. Prices reached $262/MWh in the Mid-Atlantic. That compared to $30/MWh–$50/MWh average prices in the preceding six weeks, according to DOE.

Looking toward the 2019-2020 winter season, ISO-NE said that power plants and demand-side resources are sufficient to meet the forecasted peak demand.

Beginning last winter, ISO-NE enacted a market mechanism to help resource owners manage their fuel so that limited supplies are used when they are more valuable for system reliability. The grid operator said it is also working to develop long-term, market-based mechanisms to address future energy security needs.

Power system operations could be tested if demand rises higher than projected, if the region loses a large generator, if electricity imports are affected, or if fuel delivery constrained. In those instances, ISO-NE said it has procedures in place to maintain reliability, including importing emergency power from neighboring regions, and asking businesses and residents to voluntarily conserve electricity.

Peak grid demand has remained relatively flat in New England in recent years as a result of increased use of energy-efficiency measures and behind-the-meter solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In planning for the coming winter, both the normal and extreme peak demand forecasts take into account the 2,594 MW in energy savings from energy-efficiency measure through the region’s Forward Capacity Market. While PV helps reduce energy consumption during sunny winter days, electricity demand peaks in winter after sunset. By reducing demand on sunny days, ISO-NE said that PV can help preserve other fuels for periods of peak demand. 

David Wagman's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 8, 2019 5:01 pm GMT

Maybe Vermont should have thought twice about closing Vermont Yankee; Massachusetts, about closing Pilgrim, Maine, about closing Maine Yankee, and New York, about closing Shoreham.

Now, these states might run out of gas-fired electricity? I thought efficiency and solar panels covered by snow were supposed to keep residents' lights on, and their food fresh? Call a waaahmbulance...maybe it's time they learn a lesson.

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