Dec. 6—New Englanders shouldn't have to worry about controlled power outages this winter, according to the operator of the region's power grid.
"Based on seasonal weather forecasts and information provided by generators about their fuel arrangements, the region's power system is prepared for mild and moderate weather conditions," Gordon van Welie, ISO New England's president and CEO, said Monday. ISO New England is the nonprofit entity that oversees the region's power grid.
"If long periods of severely cold weather develop, we'll lean on our forecasting tools to identify potential problems early enough to take proactive measures, such as calling for increased fuel deliveries or asking for public conservation," van Welie said in a statement.
Still, "Even if there are no rolling blackouts and the lights stay on this winter, people have to make some real difficult choices between paying for electricity and rent and food," Don Kreis, the state's consumer advocate, said in a phone interview.
Eversource customers in New Hampshire are paying 50% more today than they did before August for electricity, according to the utility. Someone using 600 kilowatt hours is paying an additional $67.63 a month, the company said.
The energy portion of Eversource's bills more than doubled in August. Several other utilities in the state also saw a huge spike in their energy costs.
Eversource's bills are due to be adjusted again for Feb. 1.
Kreis said his guess is "there will be a further increase."
He said advanced weather forecasting should sound an early alarm about energy supply concerns.
"If it's going to be super cold for a week or more, generally we see that coming," Kreis said.
Kreis called the ISO forecast "a cautious and prudent prediction."
Referring to the possibility of controlled power outages, ISO said it "would resort to this drastic step only to prevent a collapse of the power system that would take days or weeks to repair.
"In the event controlled power outages are needed, the ISO would coordinate this action with local utilities, which would then take the necessary actions to lower electricity demand in their areas," the statement said.
ISO said it uses a rolling three-week forecast to predict any energy supply problems and work on solutions.
The grid operator predicted demand for electricity will peak at 20,009 megawatts during average winter lows of 10 degrees and 20,695 megawatts if temperatures reach below-average 5 degrees.
Both predictions are about 2% higher than last year's forecasts. New England's all-time winter peak record was set during a January 2004 cold snap when electricity usage reached 22,818 megawatts. The all-time peak demand happened Aug. 2, 2006, with 28,130 megawatts.
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