Commentary

Angwin: Closing 5000 MW of New England power could spell trouble this winter

by Meredith Angwin

Summer afternoon. I stare at the huge yellow blossoms of my daylily patch. I am always amazed by their generous beauty. Midsummer is wonderful in Vermont.

However, in Vermont, winter is always on your mind.

Meredith Angwin

Looking back at winter oil

In the deeply cold weather of 2017/2018, oil saved the grid. Gas-fired power plants could not always get fuel. (I described this situation at the beginning of my book, Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid.)

Some gas-fired power plants were able to burn oil, and they did. The oil they burned saved the grid, and it was part of ISO-NE “Winter Reliability Program.” which assured an oil supply to power plants that could burn oil or natural gas (dual-fuel power plants). Our grid was operating on 30% oil for about a week.

The Winter Reliability Program was subsequently scrapped by FERC as being “out of market” and not “fuel neutral.” However, it kept the lights on in New England.

I have argued that we need such a program again, whatever FERC thinks of it. I have the sad history of the Winter Reliability Program in an earlier blog post.

Looking forward to winter oil

Time to look forward to the coming winter. In February of this year, I spoke at a forum of the energy committees of the Connecticut Legislature. (New England Was Barely Ready for Winter.) The next speaker at the forum was Gordon van Welie, the CEO of ISO- NE, our grid operator. Van Welie said that a Winter Reliability Project would not be effective this coming winter.

I could think of several reasons that such a project would not be effective. For one thing, several large base-load plants have shut down, and so oil would have to supply even more electricity in order to keep the lights on. The graphic at the head of this blog post is from a recent ISO-NE presentation. It shows that more than 5000 MW of reliable plants have closed in New England since 2013. Meanwhile, 3000 MW of dual-fuel plants have been added. But can the dual-fired plants get fuel without a Winter Reliability Program? Or is this just more dependency on Just-In-Time natural gas?

To put this in context, our New England grid runs as low as 10,000 MW at night and has rare peaks of about 23,000 MW. (In contrast, ERCOT of Texas is expecting today’s peak to be over 70,000 MW.) Shuttering 5000 MW of reliable power has affected a major part of our power supply……

The author, a Wilder resident, chemist, consultant and author of “Shorting the Grid,” an analysis of regional electricity grids. The rest of Ms. Angwin’s blog post may be read at MeredithAngwin.com.

Categories: Commentary

5 replies »

  1. Relax….Everything is fine according to our legislators and “experts”
    Until it’s not.
    Politics and electricity do not mix, yet here we are with an electric grid and utility system completely controlled by politics, bureaucrats and climate evangelists.
    If one needs electricity to survive in Vermont, best to have a Plan B.
    But with the GWSA requirements coming into focus, it’s wise to have Plans B, C and an exit strategy to leave the Northeast.

  2. Great alarm, but “Is anyone listening?”
    I just ordered, after 55 years in Vermont, a standby generator for my home.
    I no longer have any confidence in the competence or intentions of the agencies established to protect our economy.

    • I Purchased a portable generator several years ago it will run on propane or Gasoline. I keep on hand 250 gallons of propane My boat will hold 40 gallons of gas and my pickup has a 45 gallon gas tank. I’ve been thinking this was going to happen since they closed VT Yankee

  3. Thank you Meridith for the information, and again with the closure of Vermont yankee, we have less capacity available to customers,so the possibility of blackouts becomes greater. As far as I know our grid needs upgrading which costs money(our electricity rates already some of the highest in the country) meaning rates will continue to rise plus with green advocates pushing to “electrify everything”,demand will only grow.When voters wake up to this reality, lives will more than likely be lost due to the lack of foresight in this area.

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