Market Update | 1/31/2023
We had unseasonably cold weather on Christmas Eve. It was cold, but hardly record-breaking cold. It was a holiday and a Saturday, yet we almost had rolling blackouts. ISO New England that day declared a capacity deficiency at 4:30 pm, implementing Demand Response, after about 2,150MW of resources scheduled to contribute power became unavailable. ISO New England is responsible for grid reliability in the region.
ISO New England released few details of why and what fuel sources became unavailable due to security reasons. The perception is cold weather and mechanical problems rather than fuel deficiencies were to blame. The issue that day was resolved due to the quick ramping up of oil plants to fill the gap during the capacity deficiency to meet evening peak load and avoid rolling blackouts. Nonperforming plants were fined $39 million for not meeting their obligations. Temperatures quickly warmed, and generation capacity bounced back, alleviating further strains on the grid. In the five weeks since Christmas Eve, temperatures have been well above normal nearly every day. But that is about to change with a short arctic blast coming through Friday and Saturday, with overnight temperatures forecast to be well below zero.
So, will the ISO have the necessary resources this time to avoid a capacity emergency when the system demand on Saturday evening could exceed Christmas Eve? Will those same plants that experienced problems in the cold be ready this time? Will the oil plants be ready to fill the void for this brief 36-hour or so arctic blast if necessary?
With extreme cold, ISO-NE could very well implement Demand Response, or controlled loadshedding (rolling blackouts). Perhaps Christmas Eve was just an anomaly, and the grid canperform under this weekend’s extreme temperature conditions. But if not, we must wonderwhat will happen if we have extreme cold for multiple days-the grid has not been tested thatway for a while.
For the foreseeable future, the grid cannot function without fossil fuels during normal operation, let alone during extreme weather events. With the long-term goal of electrification, the switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable power, this past weekend reminded us just how much work still needs to occur to achieve that goal.