New England power grid sees no demand growth over next 10 years

Reuters

By Scott DiSavino

Nov 8 (Reuters) - Average electric demand in New England isexpected to remain flat over the next 10 years due to increaseduse of energy efficiency programs, the power grid operator forthe six-state region said on Friday.

"When the effects of energy efficiency are included, theforecast shows essentially no long-run growth in electric energyuse and 0.9 percent annual growth in annual summer peak demand,"ISO New England said in a release.

The ISO issued the demand forecast as part of an annualregional system plan, which its board of directors approved onThursday.

That plan also said distributed generation, mostly fromsolar power at residential, corporate and government sites, isgrowing rapidly in New England and is expected to reach morethan 2,000 megawatts by the end of 2021, up from the current 250MW.

That 2,000 MW represents about 7 percent of the ISO'sall-time peak demand record of 28,130 MW, which was set in thesummer of 2006.

The more consumers generate power for themselves, the lessthey need to buy from the grid, which is bad news for theregion's generators who are already struggling with low pricesand the prospect of no demand growth over the next decade.

The ISO said it convened a working group to developstrategies to address the potential negative effects of highlevels of distributed generation on system reliability.

The ISO also said it has developed several strategies todeal with the growing use of natural gas to produce power in theregion.

The ISO said natural gas-fired plants produced 52 percent ofthe electricity generated in New England in 2012. That is upfrom just 15 percent in 2000, the ISO has said.

The rest of the generation in the region came from nuclearplants at 31 percent, hydro at 7 percent, renewables at 7percent, coal at 3 percent and oil at less that 1 percent, theISO said.

Generating companies meanwhile have announced plans to shutcoal and oil-fired units and a nuclear reactor as the low costof gas due to record shale production has reduced power prices,making it uneconomic to upgrade older, less efficient plants tomeet increasingly strict federal and state environmental rules.

Separately, the ISO said power companies in June completedthe installation of 40 phasor measurement units orsynchrophasors.

The phasors provide data to the grid operator and utilitiesthat can be used to optimize the flow of power on thehigh-voltage lines and improve reliability by reducing systemdisturbances, the ISO said.

In addition, the ISO said power companies plan to investabout $5.7 billion in the transmission system over the next fiveyears, including projects in the Boston area, Maine andelsewhere in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The biggest power companies in New England include units ofNational Grid Plc, Northeast Utilities, IberdrolaSA, NextEra Energy Inc, Dominion Resources Inc, Entergy Corp, Exelon Corp, NRG Energy Inc and Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.

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