ISO: Power available to meet cold snap’s peak demand


State House News Service
Published: 2/3/2023 12:17:07 PM
Modified: 2/3/2023 12:16:35 PM

New England grid operators expect demand for and use of electricity to hit their highest points yet this winter on as bone-chilling cold takes over Friday and Saturday, but they also expect they will have more than enough power available to meet that demand.

ISO-New England said Thursday that it “is anticipating normal power system operations this week, even as bitter cold temperatures are forecast.” Demand is projected to stretch beyond 19,000 megawatts on Friday and to just over 18,000 MW on Saturday, but the grid operator’s forecast anticipates that it will have a surplus of at least 6,000 MW of capacity above the projected demand each day.

“This would represent the highest demand so far this winter, but remain below the ISO’s seasonal forecast for peak conditions, in part because of the cold weather falling on days that typically see less consumer demand,” ISO-NE said, adding that it thinks total electricity use will peak at 379 gigawatt-hours on Friday and 371 GWh on Saturday.

There are other factors working in the grid’s favor. The regional supply of fuel oil is at its highest levels of the season, ISO-NE said, and the cold snap is forecast to last only two days before temperatures start to climb back to above-average levels next week. That “limits the potential for strain on the region’s stored fuel supplies, including liquefied natural gas,” ISO-NE said.

The all-time winter peak demand was 22,818 MW, set on Jan. 15, 2004. The highest peak demand on the grid, regardless of time of year, was 28,130 MW on Aug. 2, 2006.

Amid a brutal cold snap between Christmas 2017 and Jan. 9, 2018, regional power generators burned two million barrels of oil — more than twice the amount of oil they burned during all of 2016 — in order to produce sufficient electricity to meet demand. The two-week event “nearly pushed the bulk power system to the brink,” ISO-NE said later.

Right now, the regional grid sees its highest levels of demand in the summer, when millions of homes and businesses turn on the air conditioning to escape from the heat and humidity. Last summer’s peak was hit July 20 between 6 and 7 p.m., topping out at 24,291 MW. But as the state shifts towards electrifying transportation and home heating, it is expected to change the region to a “winter peaking system” within the next 10 years, then-Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card said last year.

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