ISO New England's 2017 Regional System Plan

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The operator of New England's electric grid has issued an updated power system plan, presenting the grid operator's view of power system needs for the next 10 years and how these needs can be addressed. ISO New England, Inc.'s 2017 Regional System Plan portrays the region's energy system as "in the midst of a major evolution toward a cleaner, hybrid grid," including both traditional resources such as natural-gas-fired generation and renewable technologies such as wind and solar, plus energy efficiency or conservation measures.

ISO New England is the independent system operator for the electric grid serving most of New England. Its tariff as approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires it to prepare and periodically update a Regional System Plan, addressing forecasts of annual energy use and peak loads for a 10-year planning horizon, market responses that can meet defined system needs, and descriptions of regional transmission projects that meet identified needs, among other information.

On November 2, ISO New England's board of directors approved its 2017 Regional System Plan (RSP17). The 2017 plan builds on the 2015 plan, while providing updated information on system needs and resources.

Highlights of the 2017 plan include:
  • Increased adoption of solar photovoltaic and energy efficiency resources will lead to long-term declines in annual use of electric energy and summer peak demand (but load will grow slightly without more solar PV and efficiency, as was previously predicted).
  • The most recent Forward Capacity Market auction (FCA #11), held in February 2017, procured sufficient resources to meet resource adequacy criteria through 2021. These resources include about 264 MW of new generation, plus 640 MW of new demand-side resources (mostly new energy efficiency, with a little new wind and solar).
  • The region's portfolio of generating resources is changing. About 4,800 megawatts of generation will be retired from 2010 to summer 2020. Older oil- and coal-fired and nuclear generators are most at risk of retirement due to economic and environmental pressures. Natural-gas-fired and renewable generation like wind and solar are the most likely replacements.
  • While the region should have sufficient resources to meet capacity requirements and adequate trans mission facilities to meet reliability criteria, ISO New England says "fuel security remains a primary issue the region must resolve to meet its energy-supply needs. " It cites limited availability of the natural gas transportation infrastructure to supply gas to generating units, and notes the grid operator's ongoing operational fuel-security analysis to quantify the region’s risk.
  • Transmission investment (and related costs) continue to grow. From 2002 through June 2017, 730 reliability-oriented transmission projects were put into service in New England states at a cost of $8.4 billion. As of June 2017, another $4 billion in transmission investment for reliability wa s planned. While ISO-NE predicts the overall need for major transmission projects for reliability to decline over the 10-year planning horizon, it says integrating large-scale renewable energy resources is a potential driver for future transmission investments.
The report also discusses efforts to coordinate New England's planning process with other neighboring regions.

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