Grid in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges

Ongoing industry transformation and the ambitious clean-energy policies of the New England states are redefining the regional power system and competitive wholesale electricity marketplace. We’re helping the region to make the most of new technologies and stay a step ahead of related reliability challenges.

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Drivers of Change

Learn about the mix of fuels and power resources that satisfy New England's electricity needs--what the mix is now, as well as past and future changes.Innovation

New England’s highly competitive wholesale electricity marketplace incentivizes the development and adoption of new technologies. These technologies succeed by providing the energy services the region needs in a more efficient way. Advances in many power production technologies—including natural gas, solar, and wind—have been major catalysts to change. Storage technologies are also advancing and will assist in managing the power system as the region’s resource mix evolves.

Public policies and programs

Federal and state efforts to reduce air emissions are the primary impetus behind expansion of renewable energy and EE programs, and are pushing the region toward a hybrid grid. These efforts have included emission limits, mandated use of green power, and tax credits and incentives for EE measures and renewable resources. The New England states are also now pursuing long-term contracts for clean-energy and energy-storage projects.

Illustration of a generatorEconomics

Fuel cost is the biggest portion of a power plant’s operating cost, particularly for New England’s natural-gas-, oil-, and coal-fired generators. However, the region has no indigenous source of fossil fuels. As natural gas production from the Marcellus shale began to boom around 2010, the low cost of this nearby fuel source enabled natural-gas-fired generators to out-compete other generation resources. Other factors affecting regional power resources’ profitability and long-term viability include falling technology costs, state-sponsored renewable policies, aging equipment, and investments to ensure environmental compliance.

Consumer choices

Electricity users are helping to shape the mix of regional power resources through their adoption of EE measures and DG resources. See the ISO’s 10-year forecasts for energy-efficiency savings and solar photovoltaic capacity, currently the largest form of DG.

Grid in transition

Change Brings Opportunities, but Also Poses Challenges

With each wave, the ISO reviews—and if necessary adapts—grid operations, market rules, and system planning to accommodate new resource types and technologies entering the marketplace while preserving reliability. Learn more about the region’s major challenges and what the ISO and stakeholders are doing to ensure a reliable supply of electricity through this transition.

Fuel security

Fuel Security for the Region’s Generators

Factors affecting the ability of the region’s power resources to access fuel, particularly in winter, and the resulting risks to reliability

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Natural gas infrastructure constraints

Natural Gas Infrastructure Constraints

How the region’s inadequate natural gas delivery infrastructure affects the ability of natural-gas-fired plants to get the fuel they need to perform, exacerbating the fuel-security challenge and impacting reliable operation of the power system

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Power Plant Retirements

Retirements of Non-Gas-Fired Power Plants

Why New England is losing large amounts of coal- and oil-fired and nuclear generating capacity, and how this intensifies the fuel-security challenge and  affects operation of the power system

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Integration of New Technologies

Integration of Renewable Resources and Other New Technologies

Opportunities and challenges related to the different operating characteristics of these power resources, and how the proliferation of these resources can help address the fuel-security challenge

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Fuel security

Accommodating State Clean-Energy Goals within the Competitive Marketplace

Why long-term reliability depends on finding ways to harmonize the competitive wholesale electricity markets that have served the region so well to date with the New England states’ initiatives to promote clean energy

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