No summer blackouts expected in New England, ISO says

The ISO New England said the region should not expect rolling blackouts this summer because generation and transmission facilities are sufficient to meet forecast demand. Demand is forecast to peak at 23,650 Mw breaking a record set in 1999, and installed capacity will be 28,100 Mw resulting in an 18.8% reserve margin, said Stephen Whitley, operations vice-president of the ISO.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Apr. 24--The ISO New England said the region should not expect rolling blackouts this summer because generation and transmission facilities are sufficient to meet forecast demand.

The ISO released its summer assessment Tuesday. Demand is forecast to peak at 23,650 Mw breaking a record set in 1999, and installed capacity will be 28,100 Mw resulting in an 18.8% reserve margin, said Stephen Whitley, operations vice-president of the ISO.

Despite the reserve, Whitley said there is a 50% probability of an extended heat wave lasting 3-5 days in the region. With hot humid weather, it may be necessary for the ISO to ask for conservation during peak hours and issue a 'power watch.'

Any outage of a major power plant under those circumstances could cause the ISO to issue a 'power warning' meaning the call for conservation is urgent or utilities will have to drop load, Whitley explained.

"Our reserve tank is lower than we would like to see it," he said on a conference call.

The ISO said it has a new demand response program that is anticipated to save 300-600 Mw. The program encourages medium-to-large commercial users to curtail electricity consumption during peak periods.

Whitley did not say how many customers were signed up currently. But the goal is to have 900 by the summer. This winter's pilot demand response program enrolled 20 customers.

Other help during a heat wave could come from the New York Independent System Operator. The two ISOs have a reciprocal agreement to support each other during times of tight supply, he said.

Regarding power prices, the ISO said consumers could expect prices to increase 10-20% during the peak months, depending on how many really hot days occur.

What is protecting consumers from "California like prices" is ample generation and transmission, Whitley said, despite expectations of record demand. This summer demand is forecast to peak at 23,650 Mw toppling the previous record of 22,544 Mw set July 6, 1999.

New England has nine new power plants on line and 15 under construction. Transmission upgrades are in place and more are in the works.

"We are taking steps to head off any crisis," said Whitley.

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