- A draft version of ISO New England's 2015 Regional System Plan finds the system has "reached a turning point" thanks to hundreds of transmissions projects coming online in the last decade, but more gas capacity is still necessary.
- The grid operator also said that public policies promoting energy efficiency and variable energy resources are reducing the need for more traditional resources and are helping lower the system's peak winter demand.
- A reliability program aimed at ensuring generators stock sufficient fuel during extreme cold will be kept in place until at least 2018.
New England's transmission system is improving, but according to the region's grid operator, requires additional transmission, generation and gas pipeline capacity.
According to ISO New England's draft regional plan — set to be finalized in November — transmission owners placed more than 600 projects into service between 2002 and 2015, at a cost of $7.2 billion.
"As a result, the system has operated reliably, and the New England system has experienced dramatically reduced congestion," the ISO said. "The region has reached a turning point in addressing several key challenges to system reliability."
The ISO said energy efficiency is expected to drive a reduction in the 10-year gross winter peak demand growth rate from 0.7% to a net annual value of −0.1%. The flat growth of the net peak load will help mitigate winter reliability concerns, the grid operator said. Assuming a normal winter, peak winter demand in the 2024-2025 season will be under 21,000 MW, and about 21,500 MW assuming a very cold winter.
Passive demand resources and energy efficiency in the ISO is expected to grow from 1,685 MW in 2015 to 3,579 MW in 2024, and the New England states’ annual investments in these programs are expected to be approximately $1 billion per year for 2015 through 2024.
"These EE investments remain a major factor in the expansion of passive demand resources in the region, which are projected to grow at an average rate of 210 MW per year across the 10-year horizon," the ISO said.
The grid operator's winter reliability program helped provide greater fuel certainty last winter, when the region was exposed to high gas prices and turned to liquefied natural gas and oil. New resources are being developed, the ISO said, and "improved resource performance is anticipated beginning in 2018."