NERC: Pandemic, regional fuel shortages threaten winter grid operations in California, New England
There is sufficient generating capacity to meet power demand this winter, but NERC sees the potential for fuel-related complications and warned that grid operators must keep worker safety at top of mind given new pandemic-related operating conditions.
“Overall, industry takes winter reliability risks very seriously,” Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments, said in a statement. “Our extreme weather scenarios help stakeholders prepare for situations where winter conditions threaten resource adequacy, potentially forcing grid operators into emergency actions like demand curtailment.”
The ongoing pandemic “is causing increased uncertainty in electricity demand projections and presents cybersecurity and operating risks,” the report concludes. However, it also notes that “no specific threats or degradation to the reliable operation of the [bulk power system] are identified for this assessment period.”
According to NERC, owners of Bulk Power System (BPS) facilities are managing a backlog in generator and transmission maintenance impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to normal winter preparations.
“Generator maintenance scheduling and outage coordination in the beginning of the winter season must be closely monitored,” NERC warned. “If maintenance is not able to be performed, forced outages may escalate.”
NERC said that while ISO New England (ISO-NE) expects to meet its regional resource adequacy requirements this winter, “a standing concern is whether there will be sufficient electrical energy available to satisfy electricity demand while satisfying operating reserves during an extended cold spell given the existing resource mix and seasonally-constrained, fuel delivery infrastructure.”
ISO-NE plans to issue its own winter outlook in early December. In an emailed statement, the grid operator said it expects “to have sufficient supplies to meet both consumer demand and to maintain our required operating reserves.”