By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Much like last winter, the operators of New England’s electric grid say there should be enough power to meet demand under normal weather conditions this summer, but a prolonged hot spell or other severe events could require rolling blackouts.
Making its summer forecast, Independent System Operators New England Inc. said Wednesday there should be enough power this summer to meet the demand.
Like most other regions, New England’s highest demand for electricity is in the summer due to air conditioning while the region used to have peak demand during winter months.
ISO officials said tight supply margins could develop if forecasted peak system conditions associated with above average hot and humid weather occur.
In such a case they said they would take the necessary steps to maintain system reliability.
ISO-NE is the independent, not-for-profit corporation responsible for keeping electricity flowing across the six New England states and ensuring that the region has reliable, competitively priced wholesale electricity today and into the future.
Typically summer demand for electricity is expected to reach 24,686 megawatts, but an extended heat wave could require as much as 26,416 MW.
Last summer’s highest usage of electricity was 25,801 MW June 29. The all-time record for electricity demand was 28,130 MW set Aug. 2, 2006 during a prolonged heat wave.
According to ISO-New England officials the organization expects to have more than 31,000 MW of capacity to meet electricity demand and required reserves.
ISO New England’s electric resources include energy generated from fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, biomass, wind, and solar, as well as reduced energy use programs, and power imported from New York and Canada.
The officials say the forecast includes reduced demand of 2,100 MW through energy efficiencies and a reduction of 900 MW during peak hours due to solar photovoltaic installations.
New England has 4,800 MW of solar power that produces the highest output during the early afternoon, pushing the region’s peak use from mid-afternoon to early evening, officials said.
Although ISO New England expects to have adequate supplies of electricity this summer, conditions could force operators to take action to maintain the system’s reliability if there is a power plant or transmission outage, an extended heat wave, fuel supply shortfalls, or emissions limitations on fossil fuel generators.
The system operator can import energy from neighboring regions, use system reserves, or ask residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce energy use.
“In severe events, system operators may be forced to call for controlled power outages to protect the overall grid,” the officials said. “Climate change has caused weather to become more volatile and less predictable, increasing the potential for system operators to resort to these actions.”
During the last week, the highest usage was Sunday May 22 at 18,568 MW and averaged between 13,431 MW and 14,277 MW during last week.
The holiday weekend saw demand jump to 16,583 MW on Sunday and 17,301 MW on the Monday holiday.
Greater demand worldwide for oil and natural gas due to increased economic activity as the pandemic wanes and from the war between Russia and the Ukraine have driven up the price of fuel and energy. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and natural gas.
The price of heating oil is over $6 per gallon in the Northeast and a similar increase has impacted natural gas prices, driving up energy and travel costs, which in turn increase inflation.
Near normal temperatures are expected for the next two weeks before the weather is expected to heat up again.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.