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Operators of New England power grid start to consider how to protect region from California- or Texas-style extreme weather

ISO New England, which runs New England's power grid, issued a rosy forecast for meeting electricity demand this summer even in the event of a typical New England-style heat wave.

But the organization acknowledged that may no longer be good enough, with climate change leading to increasingly extreme weather, as seen in California and Texas over the past year:

ISO New England is currently working on ways to plan and prepare for these types of low-probability, high-impact events.

“Events in other parts of the country have shown how quickly the unexpected can become reality,” said Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO New England’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Over the next several months, we’ll work with the New England states and stakeholders in the energy industry to discuss the challenges these types of events pose to the region.”

Barring a catastrophe like those, however, New England should be in good shape for electricity this summer, ISO says.

ISO forecasts that under "typical" summer New England weather, demand is expected to peak at 24,810 megawatts - but that that could reach more than 26,711 megawatts during a prolonged heatwave. However, the region is expected to have up to 31,000 megawatts of electricity generation available this summer, ISO says. It adds that the highest demand ever seen in New England was 28,130 during a bad heat wave in August, 2006.

ISO says a drop in electricity demand caused by Covid-19 restrictions last year has ended as states ease or end their restrictions and more people return to work in offices, factories and stores.

It also noted a change in electricity demand from power plants as more solar arrays come online: A daily reduction of up to 800 megawatts required from power plants. Of course, that peaks in early afternoon, when the sun is at its highest, but demand now peaks in the early evening, as people come home from work and crank up the AC:

Though New England has approximately 4,000 MW of solar PV installed, these systems produce their highest output in the early afternoon hours. The increase of solar power in New England has, in effect, pushed the peak hour of grid demand later in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky and production from solar PV systems is also lower. Rather than peaking during the mid-afternoon, as was customary in the summer before PV installations became more widespread, demand for grid power now peaks in the early evening hours.

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Weeeee newwwwwww weeeeeee newwwwwww (European sounding police alarm). Alert alert too many air conditions on and a squirrel was dancing on an electric line. The grid is going downnnnnnnnnnnnnahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Magoo.

Voting closed 33

The reason why Texas (ERCOT) and Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska (SPP) outage was so severe was their "free market" insistence.

The RTOs didn't require that power plant operators winterize their power plants. There were natural gas power plants without structural sheds around them -- the frost just seized up the plants. Similarly, there were wind turbines without winterization defrost kits.

In both cases, Americans had the known technology to prevent these problems, and installed it on power plants farther north. But SPP doesn't require it, and ERCOT doesn't even make capacity payments. Turns out their views on "free market" were a bit too free.

ISONE (and the NYISO) are much stricter about plants being available. It doesn't guarantee no outages, but it does make weather outages less likely.


Plus, *relative to the size of New England*, our grid is bigger than Texas. The ERCOT grid is deliberately disconnected from the rest of the USA, save several few-hundred MW links. New England, on the other hand, is directly connected to Long Island, NYC metro, upstate NY, Quebec, and New Brunswick -- and New York is well connected to Quebec, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. This allows us to lean on neighbors if things get tight, something Texas has deliberately chosen to prevent (in order to be free of the long arm of Uncle Sam's regulation, since they don't have electrical interstate commerce).

Voting closed 41

but most of Nebraska is served by the statewide Public Power District as well as many municipal Public Power entities that are government-owned and not-for-profit.
The "Free Market" failure you're referring to doesn't really apply there.


Voting closed 21

It doesn't matter what Nebraska does if what is happening in Texas takes down the entire system.

And part of that failure was Texas having a deregulated grid that tanked other grids in its wake.

Voting closed 14

MW are a unit of measure of an instantaneous quantity (energy per time): 1 MW = 1,000,000 Joules per second. So the phrase "megawatts a day" doesn't actually make sense-- the numbers cited by ISO-NE are instantaneous demand peaks rather than daily totals.

Voting closed 25

Will fix.

Voting closed 21

Rather than peaking during the mid-afternoon, as was customary in the summer before PV installations became more widespread, demand for grid power now peaks in the early evening hours.

And with battery storage connected to those PV installations on the roof, that sudden demand on the grid when people get home and crank up their ACs can be mitigated by drawing from the batteries. If PV/battery storage really went wild on the residential rooftops of Boston (and elsewhere) it could help drive down that peak demand. Of course that is good for the consumer and good for the environment, but bad for (the energy) business, so it will not be allowed. Eversource didn't spend all that money on those politicians for nothin ya know!

Voting closed 16

Really doesn't care if all of its service area goes heavy-duty into solar/batteries/wind, as long as the consumers stay connected to the grid. Their core business is running the power delivery network, not generation, and it's regulated. If demand for electricity goes down, they just raise the monthly fee for connection to the grid along with the delivery cost when you do need electrons from the grid.

Their business is only affected if a large number of customers are able to disconnect entirely from their delivery network, and that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Voting closed 16