ISO to rely on oil and coal if strapped for natural gas


The New England ISO should have sufficient resources to meet consumer demand for electricity during the 2012-2013 winter season.

However, the region's reliance on natural gas as a fuel to produce electricity could create operational challenges if natural gas supplies become tight this winter. If this occurs, ISO New England will rely on oil- and coal-fired generation to lessen any operational risks to the region's power system.

"ISO New England has raised concerns about the region's reliance on natural gas as part of our broader Strategic Planning Initiative efforts," said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer, ISO New England. "The ISO will continue to turn to coal- and oil-fired generation when necessary to ensure that the power needed to meet consumer demand and maintain grid reliability is available this winter."

New England's reliance on natural gas to produce electricity has increased significantly in the past several years, in part because natural gas has become far less expensive. Today, nearly 45 percent of the region's generating capacity is natural gas fired, accounting for more than half of the region's power. And while oil- and coal-fired generators are seldom called on to provide electricity because of their higher fuel costs, they make up nearly 30 percent of the region's generating capacity.

ISO has recently filed proposed changes with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would allow power system operators to communicate specific real-time generating information with natural gas pipeline operators for ensuring power system reliability.

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