Coal, oil get a boost from Northern cold snap
- An extended stretch of cold weather across the northern regions of the United States has forced generators to turn to coal and fuel oil, but regional grid operators say they have seen no difficulties in maintaining power supply.
- ISO New England has shifted the bulk of its generation to fuel oil, according to its ISO Express page. Current generation is about 24% gas, 24% nuclear and 33% fuel oil. Coal is making up about 6% of generation, while renewables are about 9%.
- A cold weather alert issued by PJM Interconnect extends through today, though the mid-Atlantic grid operator says sufficient power supplies and reserves are available.
Brutal cold weather across portions of the country is altering the power mix for some electric grids, with oil leading over gas in ISO New England and coal doing the same in PJM. Despite the cold, there have not been any difficulties in continuing to supply fuel to power plants or electricity to customers.
In ISO New England, a third of generation is coming from fuel oil today. According to Commonwealth Magazine, typically it's closer to 1% but spiking gas costs have forced dual-fuel facilities to switch. Bloomberg reports coal is once again the lead fuel in PJM.
Today, PJM expects a morning peak of 134,500 MW and an evening peak of 132,000 MW. The operator's highest winter peak load was 143,129 MW, which occurred in February 2015.
"Currently sufficient power supplies and reserves are available, and PJM does not expect issues," the operator said in a statement.
The weather pattern is similar to the polar vortex, which in 2014 brought frigid temperatures that forced generators offline and caused PJM to put in place more stringent reliability standards.
A U.S. Department of Energy proposed rulemaking would reward power plants that have 90 days of fuel supply onsite. Primarily aimed at struggling coal and nuclear plants, support for the rule could see a boost if the nation's power grid is tested.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter