- Electricity use in New England will grow about 1.1% annually over the next decade driven by growing heating and transportation loads, according to the regional grid operator. Meanwhile, efficiency and distributed resources will help reduce grid stress.
- In the "near term," the region has sufficient resources to meet demand through 2030, the ISO New England concluded in its biennial report, 2021 Regional System Plan, published Wednesday. However, "efforts to reexamine how to meet reliability within the 10-year planning period and beyond will be a top priority."
- The New England market must evolve in "two fundamental ways," Dan Dolan, president at New England Power Generators Association (NEPGA), said in an email, including incorporating state decarbonization policies "to support financing of new and existing zero and clean energy facilities."
The results of New England's most recent forward capacity auction, for the 2024-2025 commitment period, show sufficient resources to maintain reliability, according to the regional plan. But going forward, the report also finds that the grid operator will need to "focus on meeting system-security requirements with resources that are energy-constrained and/or have limited observability and controllability."
"Energy adequacy, especially during periods of extreme weather events, remains a top concern when considering reliability of the New England system over the planning horizon," the report warns.
The ISO serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, which have greenhouse gas reduction plans that include electrifying heating loads and transportation. The grid operator expects those new loads will add 6,080 GWh of annual energy consumption, 675 MW of peak summer demand, and 2,472 MW of peak winter demand by 2030.
Overall, the ISO concludes its net summer demand will "remain relatively steady" over the next 10 years, while net winter demand increases.
"Beyond the current 10-year planning horizon, the increased electrification needed will likely cause the region to become a winter-peaking system," the ISO said in a statement.
The ISO said it is examining how to meet grid reliability amid changes to its resource mix. The development of renewable resources, efficiency, battery storage, energy imports and the continued investment in natural gas efficiency measures, "will alleviate reliability risks."
Solar capacity on the distribution system will reach more than 10 GW by the end of 2030, the ISO estimates, compared with less than 4 GW at the end of 2020. The grid operator expects more than half of the 10 GW of solar to be behind the meter.
But the report also noted that "many of these resources are, at times, energy-constrained, so changes to the transmission and distribution systems and the development of new market products and procedures are being explored to ensure power system reliability."
The grid operator's forward capacity auction "plays a critical role" in meeting the region's reliability needs, and the ISO said it is currently working with states and market participants "to eliminate the [minimum offer price rule]) in the [forward capacity market] and assessing a consequent need to adjust certain auction parameters."
How to incorporate state greenhouse gas policies that support renewables into wholesale markets with fossil fuel and nuclear generators remains a key question for the region.
The New England States Committee on Electricity, in an Oct. 29 letter to the ISO board of directors, said that along with eliminating the minimum price rule they want to work with the grid operator on "improving ancillary services, and co-optimizing reserves in the energy markets."
NEPGA officials say the operational needs of a reliable and resilient grid "must be better accounted for," and the group has warned federal regulators that eliminating the minimum offer price rule may cause "risks to system reliability and market efficiency."
"This is particularly true as reliability becomes more valuable with higher electrification of the transportation and heating sectors," Dolan said. "Better aligning the market to match payments for services has long been a goal, but the urgency is now to finally get it right."
State decarbonization policies must also be incorporated "once and for all" into markets, Dolan said. "Whether through meaningful carbon pricing or some other mechanism, this remains the most glaring hole in today's marketplace."