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NERC: Northeast, Southwest Will Be Tight this Summer

NERC: Northeast, Southwest Will Be Tight this Summer

The month of May provided a nice opportunity to become familiar with the power emergency procedures that are likely to be utilized during peak demand periods in New England, New York, and the Southwest this summer. The North American Electric Reliability Council's 2000 Summer Assessment on the reliability of bulk power supply officially confirmed last week that these three areas probably will be challenged to meet peaking loads.

Peak demand is expected to be up 1.7% this summer compared to last, NERC said, noting, however, that its previous demand predictions have been on the low side.

NERC attributed the problems in New England and New York to three main causes: the Plattsburgh Phase Angle Regulator (PAR) failure on March 22, the outage of the Indian Point No. 2 nuclear unit (930 MW) on March 10 and the Hudson Transformer Failure at the New York-PJM interface.

The Plattsburgh PAR is expected to be out of service for most of the year, reducing import capacity into Vermont and causing a 100 MW reduction in transfer capability between New York and New England. The larger impact on the bulk electric system, however, is a potential 600 MW reduction in imports from Hydro-Quebec to New England. Indian Point No. 2 is expected to out of service until mid-June, and if it is out during peak load conditions, it could limit New York City's ability to import power. In addition, one of the two (345/230 kV) Hudson transformers failed and will be out of service for the entire summer. As a result, the transmission capability between PJM and New York will be reduced by 200-400 MW from 1,000 MW.

".....[I]f hot weather ensues in a wide area of the Eastern Interconnection, as occurred last summer, the ability to acquire energy, or more importantly, emergency energy during a capacity emergency, could be very challenging," NERC's said in its 2000 assessment. "The ability to deliver this energy is somewhat degraded from last summer due to the above situations and increased peak demand."

NERC noted that preparations, including generation and transmission maintenance and operator training, and new procedures for the purchase and delivery of emergency power in the region are being developed. New England has developed a demand-reduction program designed to provide 600 MW of relief during peak periods.

"Despite these preparations, and the fact that the overall capacity resource is slightly improved over last summer, it is likely that emergency procedures will be used in both New York and New England this summer during peak demand periods," NERC said.

Meanwhile in the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Nevada, California and Baja California Norte, Mexico) there may not be "adequate resources to accommodate a widespread severe heat wave or a significantly higher than normal forced outage rate for generation."

In California in particular, a heat wave could lead to capacity shortages, NERC said. "Operating margins may be slim and thermal loading problems may require curtailment of firm demand in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay area and the San Diego area. Voltage and voltage stability concerns in the Fresno and Sacramento Valley areas may require the use of emergency operating procedures, including the curtailment of firm demand during extreme conditions."

Areas that have improved conditions since last summer include Alberta, where 1,384 MW of generation have been added since November 1998; Texas, which has added more than 5,000 MW of new capacity; Illinois, eastern Wisconsin and eastern Missouri, which should have all their nuclear units operating and 3,000 MW of new generation in place this summer; the Southeast, where more than 10,000 MW have been added and another 1,400 MW will be in place before summer; and MAAC, where PJM has identified remedial actions to deal with the cause of depressed voltage on an EHV transmission system. (For a copy of the summer 2000 assessment go to NERC's web site at

Capacity Margins Dangerously Low

NERC's longer-term look at reliability (1999-2008) concludes that capacity margins in the Eastern Interconnection could be dangerously low without the availability of significant new merchant power generation. The 10-year Reliability Assessment also was released this week by NERC. It notes that near-term margins (through 2003) are "at the lowest levels in many years, particularly in the Eastern Interconnection." However, those margins were calculated without the benefit of proposed merchant power facilities. Plans have been announced for construction of 51,600 MW of merchant generation by the end of 2001. With demand expected to grow by 27,500 MW by the summer of 2001 more than half of the proposed new generation will be needed "just to keep pace with demand growth," NERC noted.

NERC also said there is a growing reliance on "demand diversity." Last summer, operators in the Eastern Interconnection projected purchasing 13,700 MW of supply from other regions (or about 2.3% of the total generation in the East). If the trend continues there could be insufficient transfer capacity to handle the demand. Also in the short term, NERC said that there may need to be significant outages of fossil plants in order to install environmental control devices to meet EPA's new nitrogen oxide (NOx) regulations.

NERC's midpoint projection of peak power demand growth is 1.8%/year over the next 10 years. It expects total energy demand will grow 1.9%/year, which is up from last year's projection of 1.7%/year growth. The projections are substantially lower than the growth of the last 10 years, NERC noted. Actual growth has been closer to NERC's "high-band" scenario for the next 10 years, which projects possible power demand growth of 2.4%/year.

Whether there will be adequate capacity to serve the growth will be highly dependent on the availability of the 100,000 MW of new merchant power generation that is planned for installation over the next 10 years, NERC noted.

Over the long term, NERC said that some of the biggest concerns are whether there are sufficient incentives for construction of new transmission, whether reactive power support is good enough to ensure reliable energy transfers and whether the industry can successfully coordinate the development of generation and transmission to provide a reliable electric grid. (For more details in the report, see NERC's web site.)

Rocco Canonica

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