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New England ISO Ready to Meet Electric Demand this Winter

new-england-electric-demandAs the heart of the winter months draw near, the Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE) says they are prepared for the expected increase in consumer demand for power. New England should have enough resources to provide heat and electricity to homes and businesses, but if natural gas supplies become tight, they may be faced with some challenges.

New England’s dependence on natural gas has increased over the past few years because of the cheap cost of the fuel. Since it is used to produce both heat and electricity, the possibility of a shortage is not unlikely. If this does occur, New England plans to shift their reliance to underused oil and coal-fired generation. Over 13,000 megawatts (MW), nearly 45 percent of the region’s generating capacity, is powered by natural gas. Most of the remaining power is produced from the region’s five nuclear reactors that generate over 4,600 MW.

The New England region also has roughly 6,000 MW of oil and 2,000 MW of coal-fired generators. Although they have these methods available, they are rarely used to produce electricity because of their high fuel cost. But, they are needed to help maintain system reliability in times of increased demand. The ISO has surveyed the area and has ensured that, if demand does exceed their natural gas and nuclear generating capacity, they have enough coal and oil to make it through the winter.

The ISO-NE has also stated that they are working with natural gas suppliers, as well as federal regulators, to guarantee enough pipeline gas is available for regional power plants, along with liquefied natural gas for some power plants in the Boston area.

During last year’s winter season, demand for electricity reached 21,354 MW on January 4th. With temperatures expected to hover around 7 degrees Fahrenheit, the ISO-NE is anticipating a peak demand of 22,355 MW. But if extreme winter weather sets in and temperatures drop to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, demand could exceed 23,000 MW.

Although this seems like a high demand, the ISO is confident that their energy supply will suffice. The six-state region has enough generation and demand-side resources to total roughly 33,000 MW, and 475 MW of net imports from their neighboring areas.

In the unlikely event that power plant or transmissions line outages occur, the ISO-NE does have a backup plan to keep the electricity flowing. Importing emergency power, compensating certain customers for their energy curtailment, and requesting all other residents and businesses to voluntarily conserve their electric usage are all part of their strategy. In case outages do occur this winter, it is best to get prepared now. Make sure your home is filled with enough food, water, candles, and blankets to keep you and your family safe and comfortable.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.

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