New England summer 2017 electricity supply forecast

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New England will have an adequate supply of electricity this summer, according to the regional grid operator, but its forecasts show the possibility of occasional "tight system conditions."

ISO New England Inc. is the operator of the region's wholesale electricity markets and bulk power system.  To help inform its planning, the grid operator prepares seasonal short-term forecasts.  ISO New England's most recent projection, covering summer 2017, found that "New England is expected to have the resources needed to meet consumer demand for electricity this summer."

Weather can have a significant impact on consumer demand for electricity.  ISO New England projects that under normal weather of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), this summer's electricity demand will peak at 26,482 MW.  This forecast falls between last year's summer system peak (August 12, 2016, at 25,466 MW) and the all-time record peak demand (August 2, 2006, at 28,130 MW).  But if the summer of 2017 is unusually hot, New England might set a new record for system demand: the grid operator projects that demand could rise as high as 28,865 MW under extreme summer weather, such as an extended heat wave of about 94°F.

ISO also notes that its "forecast estimates indicate the possibility of a tighter-than-expected margin of supply and reserves" because "up to 700 megawatts (MW) of expected new resources are delayed and may not be available this summer."  In addition, the 1,500 MW Brayton Point coal- and oil-fired power plant in Massachusetts will retire, leaving New England with approximately 29,400 MW of total capacity available this summer.  Meanwhile, approximately 2,000 MW of behind-the-meter solar facilities are currently installed throughout the region, which can reduce demand for grid power.

In its press release, ISO New England noted its readiness to maintain system reliability under tight supply conditions this summer.  Measures the grid operator could take in case of a supply deficit under peak summer conditions include importing additional electricity from neighboring regions, and implementing a variety of operating procedures to keep the grid balanced including calling on demand-response resources to curtail energy use.

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