By - Jim Vess

New England set to meet winter electricity generation demands, though fuel issues linger

Energize Weekly, December 5, 2018

New England’s power grid operator—after a cold snap last winter taxed generating capacity—has put in place new programs and says it expects to have the resources to meet demand. Still, fuel constraints could pose a risk.

ISO New England (ISO-NE) said in its winter outlook that it expects consumer demand to peak a 20,357 megawatts (MW) under normal weather conditions and 21,057 MW at extreme temperatures of 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last winter, a two-week cold snap stressed the system as demand for natural gas for heating forced the grid to rely more heavily on oil-fired generation from facilities with onsite tanks. The season’s peak demand was 20,631 MW on Jan. 8, 2018.

Since then, ISO-NE has implemented programs to better manage fuels and generation: a 21-day-ahead fuel forecast and a market-based performance fuel-management system.

“Last winter demonstrated just how much the weather can impact power system operations, not just in terms of consumer demand for electricity, but in the ability of generators to access fuel,” Peter Brandien, ISO-NE’s vice president for system operations, said in a statement. “The ISO has learned lessons from this experience, and made near-term improvements to help address these energy security concerns.”

The ISO’s pay-for-performance rules offer bonus payments and financial penalties to ensure fuels are well managed and available to provide energy and reserves or reduce demand during “times of stress to the regional power system.”

The implementation of the pay-for-performance rules coincides with the end of the Winter Reliability Program, which offers incentives to generators to stock up on oil or contract for liquefied natural gas before winter begins, as well as for demand-side resources to be available. The 21-day forecast will offer a market mechanism to provide for limited fuel supplies to be used when they are most valuable for system reliability and cost effectiveness.

Still, higher than projected demand, the loss of a large generation source, impacts on electricity imports or tight fuel supplies could challenge the system, the ISO said. This could lead to the grid operator implementing emergency operating procedures to maintain reliability.

“The region’s natural gas delivery infrastructure has expanded only incrementally, while reliance on natural gas as the predominant fuel for both power generation and heating continues to grow,” the ISO said. “During extremely cold weather, natural gas pipeline constraints limit the availability of fuel for natural gas-fired power plants. Inclement weather can also impact oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries to the region, as well as generation from renewable resources.”

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