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NPCC Study Will Examine Reliability Threats Posed by Northeast Fuel Constraints

The Northeast Power Coordinating Council has begun a study of fuel constraints in the Northeast and their potential effects on electric generation in the region.

The study aims to examine the natural gas supply and pipeline constraints that may occur during extreme and protracted winter weather events during the winter peak heating season -- December through February -- in the periods of 2024-2025, 2027-28 and 2032-33.

The study is expected to be completed by December 2024.

The study will also address concerns presented at the June 20 New England Winter Gas-Electric Forum held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that looked at the future reliability and affordability of local gas distribution systems.

FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation recently released a report on Winter Storm Elliott that underscored the consequences that significant winter weather events may have on the reliability of both the electric and the local gas distribution systems.

NERC’s recently released 2023-2024 Winter Reliability Assessment also highlighted the threats to reliability posed by the effects of cold weather on natural gas supplies in the Northeast, warning that “limited inventory of liquid fuels may exacerbate the risks for fuel-based generator outages and output reductions that result in energy emergencies during extreme weather” in the NPCC region.

“This study will be vital to the region’s energy infrastructure decisions and will inform both regulatory and legislative policy and decision makers about the capacity, capabilities and resilience of the region’s gas infrastructure,” Charles Dickerson, president and chief executive officer of NPCC, said in a statement.

The study will model the region’s hydraulic system and use data from entities that use the region’s natural gas infrastructure to illustrate the ability of the gas system to serve gas-fired generation for the winter peak heating season.

“As has been demonstrated in recent events across the country, the electric and gas systems are interdependent and a failure in one system can impact the other,” Gordon van Welie, president and chief executive officer of ISO New England, said in a statement.

“The independent system operators have no jurisdiction over the natural gas system and do not have the expertise to determine whether it will remain reliable as the energy industry evolves. This study will provide important insight into the gas system and its ability to support both electric generation needs and customer gas use as the demands from both change in the future,” van Welie added.

The steering committee for the study includes the New York Independent System Operator, ISO New England, NERC and the Northeast Gas Association.

NPCC’s geographic area includes New York State, the six New England states, Ontario, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

NPCC said it plans to post periodic updates on the status of the study, which is being done by Levitan & Associates, on its website.

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