Our History

This timeline highlights the ISO’s role in a rapidly evolving industry.

Timeline Key

blue dotTurning Points

gold dotNotable Developments

1880

Thomas Edison receives patent for incandescent light bulb

1882

First complete electric power system launches in New York City

Early 1900s

Local networks spring up across US, run by vertically-integrated private or municipal utilities providing power generation, transmission, and distribution; networks begin to interconnect

1920

Federal Power Act of 1920 establishes Federal Power Commission to regulate interstate aspects of electric power and natural gas industries

1965

On November 9, vulnerability of interconnected networks to local power failures is highlighted when a single transmission-line relaying failure near Toronto sets off Great Northeast Blackout, leaving 30 million customers over eight states without power

1971

New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) created to establish central dispatch of generation in New England; handle settlements and billing; coordinate outages of transmission and generation equipment; undertake joint planning and other measures to improve system reliability and economics

1977

Congress reorganizes Federal Power Commission as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

1970s–1990s

The vertically-integrated utility model leads to a lack of competition within the industry

1992

Energy Policy Act creates new category of electricity producer, exempt wholesale generator (exempt from certain financial and legal restrictions in Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935), opening door for greater numbers of power producers; and allows FERC to open up national electricity transmission system to wholesale suppliers

1996

Deregulation (“market restructuring”) begins when FERC Orders 888 and 889 open transmission systems to fair and nondiscriminatory access and remove obstacles to competition in wholesale trade of electricity; in response, NEPOOL proposes the Independent System Operator (ISO) for New England

1997

ISO New England (ISO) created to operate regional power system, implement wholesale markets, ensure open access to transmission lines

1999

ISO launches regional wholesale electricity markets to expand competitive market forces in regional generation and sales of wholesale electricity—an essential step in supporting competitive wholesale and retail pricing; change ushers in new era of industry innovation

1999

About 200 market participants buy and sell electric power and related products annually in ISO-administered wholesale electricity markets

1999

FERC Order No. 2000 encourages voluntary formation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) to administer transmission grid regionally throughout North America, and delineates twelve required characteristics and functions

Late-1990s through 2000s

Regional shift to natural-gas-fired generation underway, largely due to natural gas generators being relatively easy to site and less expensive to build than other generation types

2000

ISO and NEPOOL transmission providers prepare first regional transmission plan summarizing results of reliability and economic-related studies, generator studies, and other transmission projects; process develops into current annual Regional System Plan

2000

Natural gas fuels 15% of region’s generators; nuclear, oil, coal still dominate

Fuel mix

2001

ISO launches first demand-response programs to compensate resources for helping reduce demand on power grid

2003

100 MW of demand resources participate in New England markets

2003

ISO launches market redesign with locational pricing, day-ahead and real-time markets to more accurately reflect cost of wholesale power and provide clearer economic signals for infrastructure investment (view press release)

2003

In August, New England largely spared from blackout that affects 50 million in Midwestern and Northeastern United States and Canada; sound power grid planning and operation practices and high-quality system operator training credited

2003

34% increase in new plants (about 10,000 MW) since 1999 significantly improves reliability and genuine competition

2004

Over 260 market participants buy and sell electric power and related products annually in ISO-administered wholesale electricity markets

2004

Natural gas fuels 30% of region’s electricity

2005

ISO begins operation as a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO), assuming broader authority over day-to-day operation of region’s transmission system and greater independence to manage region’s electric power system and competitive wholesale electricity markets

2005

ISO launches new Regulation Market designed to more efficiently and precisely price regulation service based on generator availability and use

2005

Close to 500 MW of demand resources participating in New England markets

2005

Following Regional System Plan—ISO’s annual “roadmap” of system needs started in 2001—infrastructure upgrades well underway in New England, with 75 projects placed in service, totaling $217 million in transmission investment

2006

ISO launches locational Forward Reserve Market for better valuation of reserves to reflect where demand is heaviest, thereby providing price signals for investment in local quick-start plants

2006

Over 280 market participants buy and sell electric power and related products annually in ISO-administered wholesale electricity markets

2008

In February, ISO holds first auction in new Forward Capacity Market (FCM), designed to purchase enough qualified resources three years in advance to satisfy region’s future needs and allow enough time to construct new capacity resources

2008

Over 400 market participants buy and sell electric power and related products annually in ISO-administered wholesale electricity markets

2008

Over 200 transmission projects placed into service, totaling more than $1 billion in investment since 2002

2010

First FCM capacity commitment period begins (one-year period from June through May for which supply obligations were assumed through a Forward Capacity Auction)

2010

ISO embarks on Strategic Planning Initiative (SPI) to define challenges affecting performance of power system resources and long-term power grid reliability

2010

Over 450 market participants buy and sell electric power and related products annually in ISO-administered wholesale electricity markets

2011

Dependence on natural gas challenge #1 for region, as identified by Strategic Planning Initiative

2011

FERC Order 1000 requires cost of transmission solutions chosen to meet transmission needs between neighboring regions to be allocated fairly; expands other transmission planning requirements, including evaluating possible transmission alternatives

2012

ISO finalizes development of new annual long-term, multi-state energy-efficiency (EE) forecast—nation’s first—to better inform future system planning efforts, projecting regional annual average energy savings of 1,358 gigawatt-hours in period of 2016–2022; see current EE forecast

2012

Despite increasing generation, emission rates fall by 92% for SO2, 66% for NOX, 21% for CO2, due mainly to new, efficient, and cleaner-burning natural-gas-fired power plants and emission controls on region’s fossil-fuel-fired power plants

2012

Natural gas fuels 52% of region’s generators

Fuel mix

2013

In May, ISO implements Strategic Planning Initiative-related changes to Day-Ahead Energy Market to better align timing of region’s electricity and natural gas markets

2013

In June, ISO marks successful completion of Synchrophasor Infrastructure and Data Utilization (SIDU) project, a high-tech grid advancement in grid monitoring and evaluation

2013

As anticipated by Strategic Planning Initiative challenge #2, retirements announced for several of region’s largest and typically oldest generators, representing loss of about 3,300 MW since 2011

Today’s Grid

  • 350 generators
  • 31,000 MW of generating capacity
  • 2,000 MW of demand response
  • 1,300 MW of energy efficiency savings
  • $6.6 billion in transmission investment since 2002
  • 500 buyers and sellers in wholesale electricity marketplace; $9.2 billion traded in 2013

See Key Grid and Market Stats