As a broader debate over the future of fossil fuels and the reliability of the state’s energy resources continues to unfold, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) recently announced that it’s prepared to meet forecasted electricity demand this winter and maintain operating reserves to battle severe cold.

“Cold weather conditions over the past few winters have allowed the NYISO, the state and generators to improve coordination in order to maintain reliability,” said Vice President of Operations Wes Yeomans. “This year’s peak demand forecast is slightly lower than last winter, and we anticipate having adequate supply throughout the 2019-20 winter.”

The state’s grid operator said it expects a peak demand of 24,123 MW this winter season. The projection is based on composite statewide temperatures of 15 degrees fahrenheit. More extreme temperatures of five degrees fahrenheit statewide would result in higher forecasted peak demand of 25,724 MW, NYISO said. A MW of electricity can serve roughly 800-1,000 homes.

While the state has lofty decarbonization goals, and its policies have pressured some utilities into finding alternatives for fossil fuel infrastructure, New York still relies heavily on those fuels to keep the lights on. About 49% of statewide generating capacity is provided by dual-fuel facilities, or those that run on oil and natural gas. Nuclear (14%), Hydropower (11%) and gas-fired plants (10%) make up other leading sources, while renewables and coal round out the rest, according to NYISO’s annual Power Trends report.

NYISO has explored a carbon pricing proposal that a recent report it commissioned found could accelerate the entry of alternative energy projects into the market and better help meet the state's energy goals.

Extreme weather in the Northeast in recent years, coupled with increasing baseload gas demand, has sent spot prices soaring. NGI recorded one of its all-time highest trades at Transco Zone 6 NY, which reached $175/MMBtu amid blizzard conditions in January 2018.

Peak demand in NYISO reached 24,728 MW last winter during a four-day cold snap. The state’s all-time winter peak was set in 2014, when polar vortex conditions tested the limits of power generators and the pipeline grid in many parts of the country.

While NYISO noted that the polar vortex didn’t cause any reliability issues, the grid operator said it made changes to its market designs to “provide stronger incentives for generators to secure fuel and enhance preparation for winter peak demand needs.”

It also noted that steps were taken to “improve situational awareness of natural gas system conditions and enhanced procedures for monitoring generator fuel inventories.” 

NYISO said that resource capacity this winter, including generation, imports and demand response, is expected to total 43,346 MW. Installed generation capacity amounts to 41,815 MW for the season, while imports of 679 MW are expected to be available for the winter.