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ISO New England Says Grid Ready for Possibly Tight Supply Margins This Summer

New England should have enough electricity, including from natural gas-fired capacity, to meet consumer demand this summer, but tight supply margins could develop if forecasted peak system conditions occur, ISO New England Inc. (ISONE) said Wednesday.

Forecast estimates indicate the possibility of a tighter-than-expected margin of supply and reserves this summer, primarily due to the delay of up to 700 MW of expected new resources, ISONE said.

"The ISO is prepared for the possibility of tight supply conditions this summer," said ISONE COO Vamsi Chadalavada. "Our system operators will take the appropriate steps to maintain reliability if consumer demand outpaces supply."

Under normal summer weather conditions of about 90 degrees, electricity demand this summer is forecasted to peak at 26,482 MW. Extreme summer weather, such as an extended heat wave of about 94 degrees, could push demand up to 28,865 MW, ISONE said.

Those forecasts incorporate the demand-reducing effects of energy-efficiency measures acquired through the Forward Capacity Market and behind-the-meter photovoltaic installations. About 2,000 MW (nameplate capacity) of behind-the-meter solar facilities are installed throughout New England, ISONE said.

Last summer, demand for power in New England peaked on Aug. 12 at 25,466 MW. The all-time record for peak demand in the region was set on Aug. 2, 2006, when demand reached 28,130 MW after a prolonged heat wave.

New England will have approximately 29,400 MW of total capacity available this summer, according to the system operator. Consumer demand for electricity is highest in the region during the summer because of air conditioning use.

If peak summer conditions happen and there is a supply deficit, ISONE said it could obtain additional electricity supplies from neighboring regions and implement operating procedures to help keep the grid in balance.

"New England employs a variety of resources to meet consumer demand for power: generators that produce electricity, such as natural gas, nuclear, oil, coal, hydro, biomass, and wind; demand-response resources that can be activated to reduce their energy use; and power imported into New England from New York and Canada," ISONE said.

ISONE implemented a winter reliability program last year to guard against "possible natural gas pipeline constraints [that] could limit electricity production from natural gas power plants."

New England's cold-weather pipeline constraints have been a hot topic in recent years. The region relies heavily on gas-fired electric generation but doesn't have enough capacity to adequately serve those power plants during periods of peak heating demand.

National Grid said last month that it plans to build the Granite State Power Link, a 1,200 MW transmission line designed to transport electricity from Canada into the New England power grid in an effort to lower the region's energy costs.

The 1,500 MW Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, which has three coal-fired units, one natural gas oil-fired unit and four small diesel-fired units, is due to retire May 31. 

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