Working toward a Smarter, Greener Grid

The New England states have set aggressive policy goals to lower carbon emissions and increase the amount of renewable energy, and are national leaders in implementing energy-efficiency (EE) measures, such as the use of more efficient lighting, appliances, cooling, and building operation.

Modernizing the electric power grid is also a priority in New England and across the country. Smart grids will help:

  • Provide consumers with the information, price structures, technologies, incentives, and tools that can empower them to use electricity more efficiently and reduce their individual energy costs
  • Improve the operational efficiency of the grid, particularly during peak times when the grid is most stressed and electricity is most expensive
  • Reduce transmission and distribution system operation, maintenance, and construction costs by reducing electricity demands at times of system peaks
  • Reduce regional wholesale and retail electricity costs by reducing electricity demand at times of system peaks

State efforts to modernize the grid also open up new approaches to demand resources (including energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation) and for coordinating planning, operations, and pricing between the wholesale and retail sectors.

But as customer power consumption becomes more price-responsive and as more customers produce their own power (for example, with solar photovoltaic systems), demand becomes less predictable, supply less controllable, and operations more complex. This poses operational challenges that the ISO has been actively working on surmounting. The greater interconnectedness of systems also means the ISO must invest in protection against cyber threats that could affect the operation of the grid or marketplace.

Smarter Greener Grid

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ISO Efforts

Investing in a highly-skilled staff allows ISO New England to actively pursue innovations on behalf of the region to help create a more efficient, responsive, reliable power system that can handle smart grid technology, as well as the integration of more demand resources, renewable generation, and other new and emerging technologies. Here are some examples of recent or ongoing ISO efforts:

Integration of Demand Response, Renewable Resources, and Other New Technologies

Forecasting and Dispatch

  • The ISO published the nation’s first long-term, multistate forecasts of energy-efficiency measures in 2012 and solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2014. The forecasts project the anticipated growth and impact of these resources and are used in the ISO’s system planning process.
  • The ISO is working with industry experts to build a forecast of day-ahead behind-the-meter solar generation that can be integrated into our existing models, for an improved forecast of system load. Learn more about the significant impact that solar power is having on demand in Solar Power in New England: Locations and Impact.
  • The ISO contributed to Watt-Sun, a project sponsored by the Department of Energy in partnership with the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center to apply state-of-the-art machine learning technologies to improve solar forecasting.
  • The ISO participated on the technical review committee for the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS). This study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aimed to determine the operational impact of significant wind and solar penetration on the Eastern Interconnection and to evaluate options for managing its variable effects on the power system.
  • ERGIS wind data is being used in the Qualified Capacity Estimator—a tool the ISO developed for the review and determination of wind and solar project capacity qualifying for Forward Capacity Market Auctions. The tool has generated cost savings for sponsors of those projects and both cost and time savings for the ISO, which can now perform its analysis in weeks versus months.
  • In 2013, the ISO began offering a wind power forecast, integrating it into scheduling and dispatch services in 2014. This seven-day hourly forecast of power generated by regional wind resources is an important tool for ISO operations and is exceeding accuracy expectations. Asset owners also have access to their resource’s individual forecast. They can use this, for example, to assist in bidding the resource in the energy market or for scheduling maintenance. The ISO has developed special displays and system functions to enhance system operators’ situational awareness of wind power, and continues improving on real-time wind dashboard displays for operators. The ISO also continue to refine the wind power forecast.
  • An improved real-time dispatch method that went into effect in 2016 enabled the electronic dispatch of wind and hydro resources, giving the ISO the ability to better manage the system during rapidly shifting weather conditions that can affect the output from wind resources.
  • The improved real-time dispatch method includes the ISO’s pioneering application in the electricity industry of a powerful risk-management modeling tool developed in collaboration with university researchers. The computational strategy better quantifies and solves for today’s unprecedented levels of uncertainty in real-time operations related to how much power will be available to supply the grid or demanded from it as more weather-dependent wind and solar resources come on line, as well as more demand resources. The new model yields both increased power system reliability and minimized dispatch costs, for a sizable savings, and remains effective as uncertainty levels increase. Read more.
  • Teaming up with scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), the ISO helped study how high-performance computing can be used to model and simulate a new robust unit commitment (UC) solution for dispatching generators, especially as more variable generation from renewable energy units comes on line. The team successfully reduced needed calculation times and produced a sophisticated statistical wind generation model for use with future studies on the random behavior of wind.
  • In early 2018, the ISO released a first-of-its kind analysis of the potential reliability risk during severe future winters related to generator fuel inventories and logistics.

Market Participation

  • After conducting a multiyear pilot program to encourage alternative technologies to participate in wholesale electricity markets, in 2015 the ISO opened the door for additional advanced storage technologies to compete to provide frequency regulation services for New England. Read more about our redesigned Regulation Market, which includes a new type of “energy-neutral” dispatch signal that can be followed by alternative technology regulation resources (ATTRs) using a storage technology, such as batteries and flywheels.
  • In late 2018, the ISO will implement a model that allows electric storage devices (ESDs)—such as batteries or flywheels that can switch from consuming to providing electricity within seconds—to more seamlessly participate in all wholesale markets. ESDs will be able to provide regulation as an alternative technology regulation resource, while also being able to provide capacity, energy, and reserves as a dispatchable generator and a dispatchable-asset-related demand resource.
  • In June 2018, the ISO launched the price-responsive demand (PRD) framework, becoming the first US grid operator to incorporate demand response resources directly into the energy dispatch and reserve designation process in a manner comparable to that of generating resources. This change adds to the long-standing ability of demand resources to participate in the capacity market. While demand response resources will no longer be dispatched during capacity deficiency conditions, their new eligibility to provide reserves should boost reliability.
  • With the approval of Competitive Auctions with Sponsored Policy Resources (CASPR) in early 2018, the ISO became the first US grid operator to implement a market-based framework for coordinating the entry of new publically financed clean-energy resources with the retirement of existing conventional (typically fossil-fuel-fired) generators.

Interconnection and Other Standards

  • ISO New England is providing technical and other support for the development of demand-response-related standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB), in partnership with other ISOs/RTOs, and is helping set standards for the integration of demand response in smart grids through an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) technical group.
  • The ISO participates in the development of standards for distributed energy resources—including demand response and energy storage—through its participation in the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB).
  • The ISO has also been actively working with the New England states, distribution utilities, and standard-setting bodies to revise standards to enable future interconnections of solar-powered systems without posing risks to grid reliability.
  • The ISO’s Measurement and Verification of Demand Reduction Value from Demand Resources was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015 as one of the best practices for statistical sampling of demand resources participating in competitive wholesale electricity markets, as well as a resource for learning more about how EE savings can be quantified and verified. Read more.
New England Map illustration

Smart Grid Development

  • Through its membership in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP)—now the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)—the ISO participated in the development of national smart grid interoperability standards, led by NIST, to establish protocols that provide common interfaces for smart grid equipment.
  • ISO staff are also active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a professional society that, among its many activities, helps develop standards for the interconnection and operation of smart grid technologies.
  • Starting in 2013, phasor measurement units (PMUs or synchrophasors) and associated computer systems for collecting and analyzing power system data were installed across the region, including at all new generators of 100 MW or more, as part of a major smart grid initiative in collaboration with regional transmission owners and with a grant from the US Department of Energy. The systems increase the observability of system conditions, enable new applications, improve oscillation detection, and save money by avoiding taking generators off line for testing. To learn more, see the graph below and read “ISO New England successfully implements three-year DOE Smart Grid Project” and “Synchrophasor technology data helping to ensure grid reliability through early detection of risk.”
  • The ISO is exploring how cloud computing can improve our use of the “high-resolution” data being generated by the region’s new PMUs. The ISO has also worked with leading universities to demonstrate how cloud computing can be used to create a reliable, secure, resilient, and affordable platform for managing PMU data and sharing it with neighboring grid operators. See “Cloud Computing for Advanced Power System Monitoring” in CIOReview Magazine.
  • The region is a leader in the smart grid application of high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) facilities and flexible alternating-current transmission systems (FACTS), which improve the controllability and transfer capability of transmission infrastructure—key factors in the connections of more renewable energy resources.

Example of Traditional SCADA Data vs New PMU Data in Power Grid Condition Monitoring

SCADA vs. PMU data
Phasor measurement units (PMUs) allow the ISO to monitor system dynamics more closely than ever before.

The region’s new PMUs measure grid conditions 30 times per second, painting a much more accurate picture of what’s happening on the power system than traditional SCADA systems that measure grid conditions every 2 to 10 seconds. In this graph, for example, the high-resolution PMU data reveals abnormal power oscillations that the SCADA data does not. Real-time alerts enable the ISO to quickly respond to abnormal oscillations, which can cause potentially dangerous fluctuations of power flows on the grid without corrective action.

Operational Efficiencies

  • To satisfy an increasing number of required transmission plan studies, the ISO has applied an innovative use of cloud computing to enhance its ability to use more detailed and sophisticated system models and scenarios, and to do so faster and at a cost savings. The initiative—the first of its kind for large-scale power system simulation studies in the industry was able to reduce computing time for one class of reliability studies from eight hours to within 30 minutes, for example. The technology has also been used to run massive reliability studies to generate zonal demand curves for the Forward Capacity Market, which would not have been possible using traditional local IT infrastructure.
  • New systems and tools have been developed in recent years or are in study now for greater operational and planning efficiencies and performance. These include projects related to voltage stability, control room visualization and alarms, cascading failure analysis, power system modeling, and generator performance evaluation.

Helpful Resources