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.