New England’s electric grid operator warned Monday that power outages are possible this winter if an extended cold snap grips the region and fuel supplies are pinched while demand soars.
ISO-New England said natural gas pipeline constraints and global supply chain problems related to deliveries of oil and liquefied natural gas are placing New England’s power system at “heightened risk” heading into the winter.
The Holyoke, Massachusetts-based organization said it expects to have the necessary resources to meet consumer demand if the winter is mild.
“But a severe prolonged cold snap could necessitate emergency actions if power-producing resources lack access to the fuel they need to operate,” ISO said. “If these risks materialize and threaten power system reliability, the ISO will turn to several operating procedures to manage the grid, up to and including controlled power outages.”
Risks cited by ISO include a severe winter, the global price of oil and liquefied natural gas that could affect storage and deliveries into New England and pipeline constraints as demand spikes simultaneously from heating customers and electricity generators.
Controlled power outages are a “last resort,” the ISO said. It wants to “educate the public that if this step were required, it would be used to protect the region’s power grid from an overall collapse.”
Gordon van Welie, president and chief executive officer of ISO New England, said oil and liquefied natural gas have “filled the gaps when extended periods of very cold weather have constrained natural gas pipeline supplies.”
But higher prices globally and pandemic-related supply chain problems could limit their availability in New England, he said.
“The region would be in a precarious position if an extended cold snap were to develop and these fuels were not available,” van Welie said.
Stephen Singer can be reached at email@example.com.
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