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Winter is here and New England is Prepared

The fourth consecutive Winter Reliability Program implemented by ISO New England is anticipated to help avoid any restrictions on the natural gas pipelines which could potentially prevent electricity manufacturing within natural gas power plants.

Traditional winter temperatures (7 degrees Fahrenheit) have an average demand of around 21,300 MW.  Whereas frigid temperatures (2 degrees Fahrenheit) would unload at about 22,000 MW of demand.  The region’s maximum capacity stands at around 34,000 MW.

Pipeline restrictions in New England due to extremely low temperatures have been a topic on the rise in recent energy news.  New England is dependent on gas-fired electric production but in certain situations where there are high heating demands, the region’s power plant capacity cannot efficiently meet the increased requirements.  Because of this, during the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15, the region saw a price escalation at various hubs across the country.  But, in more recent years the price spikes have quieted down due to warmer temperatures during winter months.

ISO New England testifies how stressful winter is for grid operators.  The coldest weeks call for increased challenges because access to natural gas is often unknown.  Both residential and commercial heating demands for the current winter could risk around 3,500 MW of gas-fired capacity due to restrictions on gas pipelines. 

The Algonquin Incremental Market is a top expansion project under Spectra Energy Partners and with this development, the current winter could seek aid from the 342,000 Dth/d of energy expected to be added as a result.  However, stepping into the future, this capacity could be re-occupied elsewhere by local gas manufacturing organizations.  ISO New England also mentioned the loss of 1500 MW generated coal and oil plants that are going to be compensated with newly added gas-fired generators.  The problem with this? At the moment there are no further manufacturing plants to distribute or hold natural gas.

Liquid Natural Gas poses only as a quick fix and not a complete solution.  This is the result of manufacturers of LNG revolving around global market prices which in time might cause them to relocate somewhere else. 

The Winter Reliability Program is expected to be in session from December 1st until February 28th.  This ultimately can act as a motivator for electric generators to construct fuel inventories before even colder temperatures tune in.

Although the reliability program implements a safety net for anticipated risks, the region is still subject to undergoing a combination of risks (long periods of extreme temperatures, power plant disruptions, restrictions on distribution, etc.) which would entail the use of drastic emergency measures to help compensate.  The uncertainty of potential chaos will continue to develop as non-gas power plants are getting shut down and replaced.  ISO New England plans to further assess how the region will sustain efficiency under new circumstances.

ISO New England has not officially recognized any recent energy projects but, they have openly shown support for increasing the region’s natural gas manufacturing sites.  ISO’s widespread weekly news indicates that support towards pipeline capacity has seen its share of struggles.

The past year has seen some major roadblocks in regard to pipeline development.  Last April, the Marcellus to New England Constitution pipeline was rejected by New York officials because there was a denied access to a water permit.  In other regions, companies like the Tennessee Gas Pipeline were forced to put aside their current projects due to the absence of firm approvals from electric generators. 

Returning back to New England, The Access Northeast expansion has taken a backseat, even after being backed up by the Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes and Northeast parent Spectra.  The reason? The FERC and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts have refused various parts of the blueprints that allow for capacity to be obtained through regulated electric distributors.

In addition to all this, a 20-year rate-payer contract was denied by regulators in New Hampshire and Connecticut stepped away from requests for new pipeline capacity.


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