By Guy Page
The New England power grid will be transformed this decade to use less fossil fuel power and more “energy-constrained” renewable electricity. Grid planners say power transmission and storage improvements “are being explored to ensure power system reliability,” according to a 10-year plan released by ISO-New England, the region’s power grid operator.
ISO-NE’s Nov. 3 press release on its 2021 Regional System Plan states, “While the development of renewable resources, energy efficiency (EE), battery storage, imports, and continued investment in natural gas efficiency measures will alleviate reliability risks, many of these resources are, at times, energy-constrained, so changes to the transmission and distribution systems and the development of new market products and procedures are being explored to ensure power system reliability.”
Other highlights from the plan:
States’ carbon reduction plans will require 2.4 billion more watts of electricity at peak wintertime demand – the equivalent of the total output of almost four nuclear power plants the size of Vermont Yankee. For the first time, New England will be a ‘winter peaking’ region.
“Strategic electrification—The ISO now forecasts the future impact of the New England states’ initiatives to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals through electrification of transportation and heating. These impacts are expected to add 6,080 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of annual energy consumption, 675 megawatts (MW) of peak summer demand, and 2,422 MW of peak winter demand by 2030. Beyond the current 10-year planning horizon, the increased electrification needed will likely cause the region to become a winter-peaking system.”
There should be enough power IF all of the projects expected to be built are built, there are no additional plant retirements, and the weather is no worse than expected.
“Capacity resources: In the short term, sufficient resources are projected for New England to meet the resource adequacy planning criterion, assuming no new major resource retirements and the successful completion and operation of all proposed new resources that have cleared the Forward Capacity Market (FCM), although negative operable capacity margins could materialize during severe weather conditions beginning in 2024. To mitigate any shortfalls in the capacity margin, the ISO would rely on operating procedures to balance supply and demand and keep the power system reliable.”
Planned new power sources lean heavily on offshore wind and battery storage.
“Resource development—The majority of projects listed in the ISO New England interconnection queue seeking to connect to the regional high-voltage power system are primarily renewable resources, particularly offshore wind, large-scale battery storage, and small-scale solar PV, coupled with battery storage.
“At present, natural gas (42%) and nuclear (21%) comprise almost two-thirds of all New England power sources. Renewables are just under 10%. Imported power (mostly hydro) from Canada and New York comprise 20%. Coal and other sources make up the rest.
“Rooftop solar is not counted as power generation, but as a power demand-reducer. Its growth helps explain why ISO-NE says it will only need an overall growth of about a one-percent growth in ‘net’ power, despite the huge actual increases in expected all-time demand.”
New England’s coal and oil-fired plants are mostly gone or leaving. Nuclear and natural gas will pick up the the slack – for now.
“In contrast, aging coal-fired, oil-fired, and nuclear power plants have been closing largely because their operating, fuel, and environmental-compliance costs make them too expensive to compete against lower-cost resources [natural gas]. Since 2013, roughly 7,000 MW of mostly coal, oil, and nuclear generation have retired or have announced plans for retirement in the coming years. Another 5,000 MW of oil and coal, which now run only during peak demand or periods of gas pipeline constraints, are likely to retire soon. (The region’s remaining two zero-carbon-emitting nuclear facilities, Millstone and Seabrook, supply a quarter of the electricity New England consumes in a year and will be critical components of a reliable clean-energy grid because they are carbon free and have a dependable, on-site fuel supply).”