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ISO New England Implements Winter Reliability Program

ISO New England oversees the region’s wholesale market for electricity sales and ensures a fluid pace remains constant.

Resources are expected to uphold this winter’s demand according to ISO New England.  However, potential restrictions require the region to be prepared for any type of complication they could be faced with.  As a result, ISO New England has installed their fourth consecutive Winter Reliability Program to aid in protecting against unreliable access to resources. 

In order to maintain a dependable system through the winter season, companies need to have connections with resourceful supplies that are readily available for deliveries and services, regardless of conditions.  Preparations should include obtainable infrastructures for electricity deliveries as well as access to various fuel services.  The region needs confidence in the sense that it will be able to meet demand even as unwanted circumstances prevail.

Several risks could be at stake for grid operators in New England due to the unpredictability of weather conditions.  These risks need to be maintained properly, especially when extremely frigid temperatures arise.  Natural gas is one of the main suppliers of the region’s energy production totaling a capacity of about 14,850 MW.  Power generation and in-home heating are the two main uses for natural gas fuel in New England.  However, the supply system is not sufficiently designed to uphold supply use for both power generation and in-home heating at the same time.  Results show days with the chilliest temperatures can cause natural gas pipelines to approach or nearly reach capacity and because of this, almost 3,500 MW of capacity could be in jeopardy.  Mainly because of the restrictions it creates on pipelines.

As stated earlier, according to ISO New England, demands are expected to be met this winter, and to further protect the region the Winter Reliability Program has been implemented.  One of the program’s functions is to stimulate power plants that will be able to accumulate manufactured gas and oil so that once winter hits there will be efficient resources. The duration of the program is expected to be from the beginning of December and run until the end of February.  It will also be comprised of an oil inventory component, an LNG component, and a demand response component.

Even with set precautions in place, the region is still at risk of needing extra backup in the case any type of junction occurs between long periods of freezing temperatures, power plant disruptions, or restrictions on natural gas access.  In addition to this, more dangers approach as a result of the retirement of gas-less power plants.  The ongoing replacement of the power plants causes some concern about predictability.  For example, the Brayton Point Power Station has plans to retire in May of 2017 which is coming up quickly.   The ISO hopes to recognize different strategies that will allow stability to continue even subsequently to retirement. 

Various projects have begun in recent years in order to create a larger abundance of useful capacity pipelines.  The Algonquin Incremental Market Project one of these projects will create a growth in the region’s capacity by around 350,000 dekatherms of gas.  This completion will help winter worries of depleting capacity due to unexpected circumstances.  The future holds different concerns in the sense that gas-selling companies who offer customers heating will be utilizing the additional capacity to ultimately broaden their manufacturing processes.  More retirements continue for coal and oil-producing plants with intentions of replacing them with newer innovative gas-powered infrastructures.

In past winters, New England has depended on Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) deliveries as a way to further energy production.  The current concern is that LNG cargoes could consider shipping elsewhere as they are reliant upon market pricing and will ultimately choose the most successful route.

Regardless of planning for disastrous events, ISO New England still fears that any combination of risks could result in a less reliable system in terms of the Winter Reliability Program.  New England weather conditions are so unpredictable, that creating a trustworthy program can be difficult.  Evaluations are being processed so future arrangements can be prepared in case certain conditions unravel.


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