New England is expected to have sufficient resources to meet peak consumer demand for electricity this summer under both typical and extreme weather conditions. In New England, consumer demand for electricity is highest during the summer because of air conditioning use.
Societal changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to change consumer demand for electricity during the summer months, but these changes do not pose a reliability threat because the system is designed to handle fluctuations in consumer demand. ISO New England has observed a 3 to 5% decline in consumer demand attributable to the pandemic.
The forecasts includes a reduction of nearly 800 MW during the peak hour that can be expected from the region’s behind-the-meter solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. Though New England has more than 3,000 MW of solar PV installed, these systems produce their highest output in the early afternoon hours. The increase of solar power in New England has, in effect, pushed the peak hour of grid demand later in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky and production from solar PV systems is also lower. Rather than peaking during the mid-afternoon, as was customary in the summer before PV installations became more widespread, demand for grid power now peaks in the early evening hours.
More than 33,000 MW of capacity is expected to be available to meet New England consumer demand for electricity. ISO New England employs a variety of resources to meet demand: generators that produce electricity, using fuels such as natural gas, nuclear, oil, coal, hydro, biomass, and wind; demand-response resources that reduce their energy use; and power imported into New England from New York and Canada.
ISO New England prepares short-term forecasts for the summer and winter seasons, taking into account estimated contributions from all resources, including those with and without an obligation through the capacity market to supply electricity; unplanned resource outages; imports from neighboring regions; and resource additions and retirements. These estimates help inform ISO New England’s planning on how to operate the grid during the upcoming peak season.
ISO New England has well-established operating procedures to maintain a reliable supply of electricity in the event of an unexpected power plant or transmission line outage, an extended heat wave that results in increased consumer demand, fuel supply issues or emissions limitations that affect the amount of electric generation available, or a combination of these factors. These procedures include importing emergency power from neighboring regions, calling on power system reserves, and asking businesses and residents to voluntarily conserve energy.
Visit Operating the Power System for more information on one of the ISO’s three critical roles in New England.