Electricity Markets

ISO New England Stakeholders Outline Steps in Case of Extreme Winter Weather

ISO New England stakeholders outlined the steps they would take to work together to navigate potential energy shortages this winter.

The stakeholders discussed scenarios and strategies during a tabletop exercise in Westborough, Massachusetts. Participating in the workshop were operations and communications personnel from the ISO and the its regional utilities: Central Maine Power, Eversource, National Grid, Rhode Island Energy, United Illuminating, Unitil, and VELCO. Officials from all six New England states, as well as federal and regional agencies were also present to observe the exercise.

The stakeholders explored a scenario similar to the winter of 2017-2018, when two weeks of extreme cold strained the supply of fuels used to generate New England’s electricity.

In the past two years, four out of seven ISOs and RTOs in the U.S. have resorted to controlled outages because extreme weather led to limited energy supplies. In New England, however, a winter energy shortfall that involves several days of inadequate fuel supplies, would present “different operational challenges than capacity deficiencies that have been more common historically and typically involve just peak hours,” ISO New England said in ISO Newswire.

ISO New England released a report in August at the request of New England Power Pool stakeholders that evaluated how the region’s grid would perform under the double burden of increased levels of renewable generation sources and higher demand. “The region may struggle to maintain necessary operating reserves in scenarios of high electrification and more aggressive retirements of existing resources,” the report found.

“While this type of emergency is unlikely, it would be profoundly impactful and close coordination between all involved entities is paramount,” Peter Brandien, ISO New England’s vice president of system operations and market administration, said in a statement. “Through exercises like this tabletop, ISO New England and the region’s utilities can work together to better understand how to best respond if these conditions materialize.”

During the tabletop exercise representatives of ISO New England, transmission owners, and local distribution companies described steps they would take to:

  • Forecast a possible energy shortfall using the ISO’s 21-Day Energy Assessment Forecast and Report;
  • Mitigate the impact of the shortfall by urging generators to stock up on stored fuels, making public appeals for energy conservation, and other measures;
  • Protect against widespread and long-lasting damage to the regional electric grid by conducting controlled outages if other efforts are unsuccessful; and
  • Keep the public, government, and energy industry informed at each stage of the emergency.