What could endanger New England’s electricity grid this winter? | News


Depending on several factors, the New England regional utility operator may ask residents to turn down the heat, do less laundry and minimize cooking this winter.

While the forecast calls for a mild winter, the grid could be in a precarious position, according to ISO-New England. ISO coordinates the flow of electricity through the transmission system and plans how to meet the region’s future electricity needs.

Here are four things you need to know about how ISO-New England says they’re preparing for winter.

– Three factors could put a strain on the network: pipeline constraints, a lower than normal supply of oil and liquid natural gas and the possibility of prolonged cold spells.

Natural gas represents just over half of the region’s electricity production.

Pipeline stresses arise when there is a concurrent demand for natural gas for heating homes and operating gas-fired power plants. Residential customers have priority and the remaining gas goes to power plants. But when there aren’t many or when prices are high, ISO turns to other regional fuel sources, such as petroleum or liquid natural gas. And these storage levels are lower than in recent winters, says Gordon Van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-New England.

A mild winter forecast doesn’t mean there won’t be cold spells, and with a changing climate, extreme weather events become frequent and more difficult to predict.

– Emergency measures may be necessary if extreme weather conditions occur and fuel reserves are not replenished. “I’m not saying this to cause undue concern at this early stage,” van Welie said. “But by sharing the conditions, we hope to prepare the region. Some of these emergency actions include importing electricity from neighboring areas, calling on residents and businesses to save energy, and using blackouts as a last resort.

Blackouts in Texas following an extreme winter storm in February served as the backdrop to Monday’s call for the press. Van Welie said that although New England is not Texas and has a more robust network, most people in the area do not understand the risks when it is cold.

“We need people to understand how vulnerable it can be in bad conditions and that this region has not yet solved this problem,” he said.

Energy efficiency efforts across the state have reduced regional electricity use in recent years. Gordon van Welie said demand forecast this winter is 2% lower than last winter due to a combination of energy efficiency and solar power behind the meter.

Van Welie says there will be more demand on the grid in the future, with more electric vehicles and heating. Distributed generation and energy efficiency efforts such as weatherization and efficient light bulbs can reduce demand and limit the construction of new power plants to offset the increased demand for electrification.

But in New Hampshire, the Public Utilities Commission has rejected a plan to spend more on energy efficiency and instead issued an order that would reduce the tariffs that fund these programs. Clean Energy New Hampshire has announced its intention to challenge this order in court.

– ISO-New England stressed that more needs to be done to create a reliable energy supply in the region, rather than relying on a “vulnerable energy supply chain”.

“Insufficient energy storage in the region, limited access to hydroelectric storage in Quebec, and continued dependence on a fragile fuel supply chain for gas and oil will continue to inject fuel. uncertainty in supply, ”said van Welie.

He stressed that the region must “redouble its efforts” to have access to imported hydropower and a gas transition plan. Maine voters recently blocked construction of a transmission line that would have carried hydroelectric power to Massachusetts.

While getting more renewables on the grid is part of the equation, van Welie stressed that finding longer-term energy storage is essential.

For the next few months, the grid manager says he expects reliable operation of the system for this winter, especially if the generators can adequately replenish their fuel reserves and if there are no unexpected blackouts. generator or transmission.

This article is shared by a partner of The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborationnh.org.

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