NERC Official Sees Northeast Pulling Through Summer

Barring an unforeseen loss of equipment, the Northeast -- having recently fought off broiling temperatures and soaring demands for electricity -- should be able to successfully make it through the rest of this summer, according to Tim Gallagher, manager of technical services at the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).

"I think the fact that the Northeast made it through extreme temperatures, and they smashed and shattered their previous all time peaks is testament to the fact that they were well prepared for the summer. We predicted that things would be tight there, but that they would make it through OK, and I think that's going to continue throughout the rest of the summer," Gallagher said. "Unless some major pieces of equipment fail, they should be fine the rest of the summer."

ISO New England recently was finally able to withdraw power warnings that it had instituted in the face of unrelenting heat and humidity and skyrocketing demand for power in the region.

NERC in May issued its 2001 summer assessment for bulk electricity supply in North America. The report said that Texas, New England and New York City should be closely watched, despite having adequate resources to meet demand. New England and New York City are particularly sensitive to long-term heat waves or higher than anticipated generating unit forced outages, the report said.

Looking at the other end of the country, Gallagher said that California "has been a pleasant surprise." He noted that NERC's summer assessment anticipated over 200 hours of blackouts in the state "and they really haven't had any during the course of the summer." The NERC executive said that the key factor in California in terms of being able to avoid blackouts has been that the state's demand has been "way below" what was forecasted. "They were forecasting almost 48,000 MW as their peak demand, and most days in the summer they've been below 40,000."

Meanwhile, NERC's summer 2001 summer assessment also touched upon several transmission-related issues, including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) interface. In 2000, heavy north-to-south power transfers occurred throughout the summer, spurred by cooler-than-normal temperatures in the north and very hot temperatures in the south. As a result, on numerous occasions, the north-to-south transmission interface in TVA was loaded well beyond its calculated transfer capability.

In its report, NERC said that early indications were that the interface would experience heavy flows again this summer, which in turn were expected to lead to a significant number of transmission loading relief procedures and possible system emergencies. In response, NERC formed a special task force to analyze and report on the simultaneous transfer capability of this transmission interface for this summer. The task force report was expected prior to the summer.

It appears that NERC's worst fears for the TVA interface this summer were unfounded. "I don't have any hard numbers, but based on what I've seen, the interface has not been highly stressed, at least not to the extent that it was the previous summer," Gallagher said.

"And the main reason for that is that we returned to more normal weather, and there was not as much generation available in the upper Midwest and in the Northeast as there was last summer, so there wasn't the power available to transfer to really stress the interface," he added.

"I think power marketers took a look at what happened the summer before, and they saw that there's the chance that they could probably move the energy if the weather played out right, and they went ahead and made the reservations, but reservations don't always translate into schedules."

As for the TVA interface task force, Gallagher told Power Market Today that the panel has been delayed in completing its report. "It's been difficult to get all the data together and to get the analysis done." He could not provide a specific date when the report is expected to be finished.

"This is kind of an ad hoc task force that they put together quickly just to look at what happened last summer and to get prepared for this summer, and we're going to be creating more of a permanent group to look at this on an ongoing basis."

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