The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Wednesday released a follow-up assessment in which it raised concerns about the ability of an increasingly natural gas-dependent bulk power system to maintain reliability when the capacity to deliver gas supplies to generators is constrained.

“The combination of growth in natural gas demand within the electricity sector and its changing status among the gas-consuming sectors continues to significantly increase the interdependencies between the gas and electricity industries. As a result, the interface between the two industries has become the focus of industry discussions and policy considerations,” said NERC’s “2013 Special Reliability Assessment — Accommodating an Increased Dependence on Natural Gas for Electric Power.”

In its original December 2011 report, NERC noted that the biggest obstacle to electric and natural gas industry cooperation was the structural differences between the industries (see Daily GPI, Dec. 27, 2011). For instance, a pipeline system designed for seasonal swings in residential and commercial demand does not always accommodate the day-to-night, weekday-to-weekend and hourly swings in demand of the power sector, making it uneconomic for some generators to reserve capacity and creating unique challenges for future storage facilities, NERC said in 2011.

The 2013 report offered several insights about the bulk power system’s exposure to the increasing risks associated with gas dependency:

“The electricity sector’s growing reliance on natural gas raises concerns from ISOs, RTOs market participants, industrial electricity and gas consumers, national and regional regulatory bodies, and other government officials regarding the ability to maintain electric system reliability when the capacity to delivery natural gas supplies to power generators is constrained,” NERC’s report stated.

“The extent of these concerns vary from region to region; however, they are most acute in areas where power generators rely on interruptible gas pipeline transportation and where the growth in gas use for power generation is growing the fastest.”

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