New England Grid Operator Raises Doubts Over Mass. Attorney General’s Gas Pipeline Study
New England’s grid operator reiterated the reliability risks posed by natural gas pipeline constraints during the winter heating season.
“Electricity supplies should be sufficient to meet consumer demand for electricity in New England this winter, but constraints on the region’s natural gas pipelines could pose a challenge to reliable operation of the regional power grid,” said the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE), a non-profit entity that manages the region’s bulk power grid, in a forecast for winter demand released today.
Under normal operating conditions, the ISO-NE’s winter outlook projects that electricity demand is likely to peak at about 21,077 megawatts (MW). In the event of extreme winter weather conditions, electricity demand could increase to nearly 22,000 MW.
Nearly half of the total power generating capacity in New England relies on natural gas as its primary fuel source. Last year, natural gas accounted for 44% of the electricity generated in New England. During the summer, the reliance on natural gas for power poses no special reliability risks. The same cannot be said for the winter months.
During the winter, natural gas pipelines in New England must operate at or near full capacity to serve heating demand for commercial and residential customers, according to several ISO-NE studies. As a result, when it goes colder than usual or for a prolonged period of time, natural-gas-fired generators in New England may not be able to secure the fuel they need to operate.