Iso new england power study highlights fuel-security risks – daily energy insider electricity production in india


ISO New England’s Operational Fuel-Security Analysis will be the basis for discussions about possible solutions with stakeholders and public officials during 2018. “A key question to be addressed will be the level of fuel-security risk the ISO, the region, and its policymakers and regulators would be willing to tolerate,” the study said.

The study represents an effort by ISO New England to understand and quantify the future effects of trends already impacting the market. It’s not a prediction the system will fail, said Ellen Foley, director of Media and Corporate Communications for ISO New England. “We’re considering this more of a diagnostic test for the region, demonstrating outcomes that could occur if these trends continue,” she told Daily Energy Insider.

The issue is primarily the result of New England’s growing dependence on natural gas to fuel electric power generation. In 2001, natural gas fueled about 15 percent of New England’s electric generation. By last year, amid efforts to meet tightening air emissions standards, the use of natural gas had increased to about 49 percent, said Marcia Blomberg, spokeswoman for ISO New England.

“… the capacity of the region’s natural gas infrastructure is not always adequate to deliver all the gas needed for both heating and power generation during winter; and natural gas is the fuel of choice for a large segment of new plant proposals,” the study said.

“The region’s coal, oil, and nuclear power plants, which have fuel stored on site and are essential for reliability when natural gas is in short supply, are retiring,” the study added. “Further, the region has limited dual-fuel generating capability — that is, generators that can use either natural gas or oil — and emissions restrictions on burning oil are tightening.”

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts, which has been producing electricity since 1972, reflects the trends. The plant’s owner, Entergy, plans to retire the plant in 2019, saying it is no longer competitive with natural gas generation. The closure will take 680 megawatts of generating capacity off the grid, enough to supply about 600,000 homes.

These challenges were evident as recently as the cold spell at the end of 2017 and into early 2018. Ordinarily oil generation represents about 2 or 3 percent of the market. But during the cold spell, oil increased to about 30 percent. Because the extreme cold lasted so long, however, some oil-fueled plants were taken offline to conserve fuel in case it would be needed later. “We were managing the fuel supply,” Blomberg said.

The ISO New England study examined 23 hypothetical scenarios involving winter-long outages at four major energy facilities in the region and varying levels of five key factors influencing the market: retirements of coal and oil plants; availability of liquified natural gas (LNG); oil tank inventories at dual-fuel generators; electricity imports from neighboring power systems and the addition of renewable resources such as wind and solar energy. The study assumed no increase in natural gas pipeline capacity.

• All but four of the scenarios resulted in rolling blackouts, indicating that the current trends may intensify the region’s fuel-security risk in the years ahead. (Rolling blackouts, which rotate power outages across a region in temporary intervals, are a controlled emergency procedure for distributing electricity during a power shortage. They are considered a last resort to prevent a widespread system failure.)

ISO New England coordinates the electric system over six states, a region encompassing more than 14 million residents in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The study notes that it did not measure the economic impact of electricity shortages on the region.

Acting to address the issue would cost money, Blomberg said. Expanding transmission lines to transport hydropower from Canada, for example, or building more natural gas pipelines or more LNG storage would require investment. “Inaction has a cost too,” she added. “It could be a greater risk to reliability, higher prices or higher emissions when so many oil units are needed to run.”

ISO New England officials expect to discuss the findings with stakeholders and policy makers in early 2018. Then, later in the year, they expect to begin discussing possible actions, Blomberg said. “We do feel that we do have time to develop some solutions.”