Hot summer could push power grid to its limits, ISO-NE says
Officials with New England’s power grid say an extended heat wave this summer could make for tighter-than-usual margins between the amount of electricity available and the demand for energy in the region.
ISO-New England officials said Wednesday that part of the reason for the thin margins is the likely delay in a new eastern Massachusetts power plant coming online. Footprint Energy’s Salem Harbor Station was to go online by June 1, but now that deadline has come into question, said Ellen Foley, an ISO-NE spokeswoman.
New Jersey-based Footprint Energy bought the former coal- and oil-fired power plant in 2012 from Dominion Energy and decide to replace the facility with a 700-megawatt generating unit that runs on natural gas. Footprint Energy officials weren’t immediately available for comment Wednesday on the reason for the possible delayed startup of the power plant.
Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO-NE, said the grid operator “is prepared for the possibility of tight supply conditions this summer.”
“Our system operators will take the appropriate steps to maintain reliability if consumer demand outpaces supply,” Chadalavada said.
Further compounding ISO-NE’s challenges in meeting the region’s energy needs is the expected May 31 retirement of Brayton Point, a 1,500-megawatt coal and oil power plant located in southeastern Massachusetts.
Each year, ISO-NE prepares short-term forecasts for summer and winter seasons. The estimates help ISO-NE’s planning on how to operate the grid.
This summer’s expected electricity demand, based upon temperatures about 90 degrees, is expected to peak at 26,482 megawatts. An extended heat wave, with temperatures of 94 degrees or higher, could drive demand levels up to 28,865 megawatts.
The region’s electric grid has roughly 29,400 megawatts of total generating capacity at its disposal this summer.
Last summer’s peak demand for power came on August 12 at 25,466 megawatts. The all-time record for peak demand was set on August 2, 2006, when demand reached 28,130 megawatts after a prolonged heat wave.
Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.