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ISO-NE sees adequate summer power supply, but cautious of gas delivery issues

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Essential Energy Insights - September 17, 2020

Essential Energy Insights September 2020

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ISO-NE sees adequate summer power supply, but cautious of gas delivery issues

expects to haveadequate electricity resources to meet consumer demand this summer. However, theRTO cautioned that regional natural gas pipeline maintenance will limit deliveryof natural gas to some power plants and could require them to obtain fuel from differentsources.

Undernormal weather conditions of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, electricity demand thissummer is forecast to peak at 26,704 MW. Extreme summer weather, such as an extendedheat wave of about 94 degrees F, could push demand up to 29,042 MW. These forecaststake into account the demand-reducing effect of 1,839 MW of energy efficiency measuresacquired through the Forward Capacity Market.

Consumerdemand for electricity is highest in New England during the summer because of airconditioning use. Last summer, demand for power peaked July 20, 2015, at 24,398MW. The all-time record for peak demand was set Aug. 2, 2006, when load reached28,130 MW after a prolonged heat wave.

"Asthe grid operator, ISO New England has to manage power system conditions reliablyevery day of the year despite multiple uncertainties," Vamsi Chadalavada, executivevice president and chief operating officer of ISO New England, said. "DuringMarch, April, and May, when consumer demand is typically lower, New England's powerplant and transmission owners schedule equipment outages to 'tune up' their equipmentbefore the peak summer season. At the same time, starting in April, natural gaspipeline outages will also occur. Although electricity supplies should be sufficient,ISO New England will continue to monitor real-time system conditions and gas pipelineoutage schedules closely throughout the spring, summer and fall months."

Naturalgas pipeline companies typically schedule maintenance and construction during thespring and summer months when demand for gas is low. These pipeline outages decreasethe total amount of natural gas that can be delivered into the region and, undersome conditions, can affect the ability of gas-fired generators to get fuel.

Notably,work on Spectra Energy Corp'sAlgonquin Incremental Market, or AIM, natural gas pipeline expansion project isscheduled to occur fromApril through November. Because the AIM project is in addition to the summer pipelinemaintenance conducted annually, ISO New England said it will be working with thegas industry to monitor gas-transmission capability, in particular because naturalgas deliveries coming from the west of New England will be limited this summer.

Duringsome of the maintenance projects, natural gas-fired power plants will need to sourcetheir fuel from other points on the system. If New England electricity suppliesbecome tight this summer because of a combination of high demand for electricityand natural gas delivery limitations to power plants, ISO New England could useoperating procedures to maintain continued power system reliability.

The RTOalso noted that upgrades to the region's transmission system offer improvementsto the flow of electricity throughout New England this summer. Sections of the InterstateReliability Project, which is a part of the New England East-West Solution, wentinto service during the past year and will enhance transfers between Connecticutand Rhode Island, as well as improve the flow of electricity moving east to westand west to east in New England.

In addition,the exponential growth of solar photovoltaic resources in the region is adding tothe complexity of operating the grid, especially during the summer months. As of2016, more than 1,300 MW of nameplate capacity, "behind-the-meter" solarfacilities are currently installed throughout New England. Because these solar resourcesare not connected to the high-voltage power system operated by ISO New England,the challenge is determining how much power they will produce and where and whenit will be produced.

Any numberof events could combine to create disruptions to the power grid, and ISO New Englandhas well-established operating procedures in place to maintain grid reliabilityin case of such an event. These procedures include using demand-response resourcesto curtail energy use, importing emergency power from neighboring regions, and askingbusinesses and residents to voluntarily conserve energy.

Someevents that could threaten reliability include an unexpected power plant or transmissionline outage, an extended heat wave that causes consumer demand to spike, fuel supplyissues that affect the amount of electric generation available, potential environmentalconstraints on oil-fired generation if run frequently, or a combination of thesefactors.

New Englandalso has different types of capacity resources, including generators that produceelectricity, such as nuclear, oil, coal, natural gas, hydro, biomass and wind; demandresponse resources that can be activated to reduce energy use; and power importedinto New England from New York and Canada.

If allgenerating resources in New England were operating at full output, the total amountof power would be approximately 30,247 MW. About 557 MW of demand response resourcesand about 1,062 MW of net electricity imports also have supply obligations to beavailable to meet this summer's peak demand.