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ISO-NE expects winter power demand to peak at 20.2 GW under normal weather


Power demand peaked at 19 GW last winter

All-time winter peak demand was 22.8 GW

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  • Jared Anderson
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  • Agamoni Ghosh
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New York — ISO New England said Dec. 8 it expects power demand to peak at 20.2 GW under normal weather conditions this winter, which is 310 MW or 1.5% lower than the 2019-20 forecast and reflects a long-term trend of declining peak winter electricity use.

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"Based on weather forecasts, fuel inventory assessments, and decreasing peak energy usage trends, the ISO expects the region will have the electricity it needs to meet consumer demand and maintain system reliability this winter," Peter Brandien, ISO-NE's vice president of system operations & market administration, said in an emailed statement.

"However, conditions still exist such that if the region experiences an extended period of extreme cold weather, fuel supplies into the region could become constrained resulting in challenging system operations," Brandien added.

During extremely cold temperatures, power demand is expected to peak at 20.8 GW, or 367 MW (1.7%) lower than the 2019-20 forecast, the grid operator said.

Power demand is largely driven by weather conditions and New England's upcoming winter weather outlook reflects a 40% likelihood for warmer weather compared to last winter, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ISO-NE said.

The coronavirus pandemic is not expected to impact power system reliability this winter, but will continue bringing "uncertainty to electricity use," the ISO said.

Extremely cold weather for several consecutive days can reduce fuel availability for generating power due to regional natural gas pipeline capacity constraints, while extreme winter weather and other unanticipated events can also impact logistics for delivering LNG and fuel oil, both important fuels for winter power production, according to the statement.

Last winter's power demand peaked at 19 GW on Dec. 19, 2019 and ISO-NE's all-time winter peak demand of 22.8 GW was set on Jan. 15, 2004, during a cold snap.

Natural-gas-fired generating capacity at risk of not being able to get fuel when needed stands at more than 4 GW, ISO-NE said.