New England power supply copes with record demand

Electricity supplies in New England coped with record breaking demand during four days last week, according to ISO New England, the operator of the region’s power grid. Last Thursday’s demand reached a record peak of 25 158 MW.

The region has been gearing up for a period of high demand for power as a forecast heat wave engulfed the east coast. Demand from air conditioning units is the major factor but a long-term trend of increasing demand for power has at its roots population, economic and technological factors.

In contrast, the provision of new supply sources in the form of additional power stations has not kept pace with demand due to lengthy planning approvals and environmental issues. Unlike California, New England has been able to manage its power crisis without resorting to blackouts although it has been necessary for consumers to reduce demand.

“The system withstood four days of the highest demand in its history,” said Stephen G. Whitley, ISO New England’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “The public responded to our appeals for voluntary conservation, helping us to keep the lights on here in New England.”

A weeklong heat wave with temperatures in the 90s and high humidity created record demand for electricity. ISO New England managed the power supply throughout the heat wave and co-ordinated efforts to reduce demand through voluntary reductions of power and public appeals for energy conservation.

During the past two years, New England has increased its electric supply by adding 12 new power plants that generate an additional 3000 MW of power. Another 12 power plants are under construction or on the drawing board, potentially adding another 6000 MW. Whitely said that this had helped to ensure system reliability.

Noting that transmission constraints created occasional problems in dispatching power to areas of high demand, Whitley said, “It’s crucial that we address transmission issues in the region. We’ve been expanding the supply of electricity by building new power plants, and now we need to upgrade and expand our transmission system to get power where it needs to go.”

ISO New England responded to the record-breaking demand with emergency conservation measures aimed at ensuring the system had sufficient reserves to compensate for any unanticipated reductions in supply. These steps included Power Warnings to encourage residents and businesses to conserve electricity and a programme in which large industrial and commercial users reduced electricity use in return for incentives.

ISO New England Inc. is the not-for-profit corporation responsible for the day-to-day reliable operation of New England’s bulk generation and transmission systems with an installed capacity of almost 26 000 MW. In addition to operating the bulk power grid, ISO New England is the administrator of the region’s wholesale electricity marketplace and the Open Access Transmission Tariff on behalf of the New England Power Pool.

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