Altemose is correct that the Globe overstates the environmental impact of this winter’s reliance on old coal- and oil-fired generating plants. A May 2018 report from the Acadia Center states “annual GHG emissions from electricity generation in New England have continued to trend strongly downward since the early 2000s, even when taking the 2017-18 winter into account.”
An even more worrisome aspect of the Globe’s stance on the use of coal and oil on especially frigid winter days is the message that natural gas is a clean fuel. That is the unrelenting drumbeat of the fossil fuel industry, and it is disturbing to watch the Globe amplify it.
Read the full article from Commonwealth Magazine here.
Energy policy driven by fear and unrealistic projections drives up the bills paid by utility customers. So, we share the concern of our coalition partners that the ISO New England fuel security study does not get the story right.
The bottom line: a more realistic business-as-usual scenario “shows few operational issues and no reliability threats” in the hypothetical extreme winter of 2024-25 that is the focus of the fuel security analysis. Translation: No rolling blackouts, no electricity rationing.
Over the past few years, electric consumption has been declining in New England even as the population and economy have grown. This is due in large part to energy efficiency (EE) gains, which have dramatically reduced the amount of electricity consumed in the region and are projected to do so even more in the future.
Declines in peak demand
The hour of highest electricity demand in New England determines the region’s infrastructure needs. The system is built to ensure it can reliably supply electricity during that hour, which usually occurs on a hot summer weekday.
For the first time ever, ISO New England (the region’s electric grid operator) is predicting a decline in peak demand over the next ten years, mostly due to projected gains in EE and on-site solar generation. Known as the 90/10 peak summer demand forecast, this projection models electric needs during a once-in-ten-years hot weather event and serves as the basis for regional system reliability planning.
The green line represents the ISO peak demand forecast, which factors in solar and energy efficiency.
The 2018 forecast also includes improvements that help it more accurately reflect recent history. Predicted winter peaks (the highest hour of use in the winter) have shifted downward, and projected needs in 2024 are nearly 700 megawatts lower than in last year’s forecast. This is equivalent to the power produced by the retiring Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts.
Acadia Center looks forward to seeing these revised winter figures incorporated into the updated modeling of ISO’s fuel security study. The initial fuel security study asserted shortages could occur under severely stressed system conditions and sparked calls for new pipelines to carry additional natural gas into the region to fuel power plants. The new forecast should result in significant changes to those predictions.
Beneficial to ratepayers
Since the electric grid is designed and built to meet needs on the peak hour, increases in energy efficiency reduce the need for expensive new construction, which would be paid for by utility customers if built.
Crucial for the future
ISO projects that by 2020, energy efficiency will reduce demand on peak days by more than all of the region’s nuclear power plants combined can supply. By 2027, energy efficiency is projected to reduce the amount of electricity we need to generate by more than 22%.
These figures not only highlight the benefits of the region’s past and planned efficiency, but also give insight into what could be accomplished with more efficiency. Lagging states can continue to expand their efforts, and efficiency improvements could be better targeted at summer and winter peaks if avoided infrastructure costs are more accurately calculated.
According to Ludlow, inflation of 3-4 percent a year accounted for a good portion of that 30 percent rise in ISO-New England’s budget over five years. U.S. Inflation Calculator.com estimates that the period actually averaged 1.6 percent annual inflation. “It raises real questions for me,” William Dornbos, the Connecticut director of the energy activist group Acadia Center, said of the 30 percent rise in ISO-New England’s revenue over five years.
Read the full article from the Hartford Courant here.
Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, cited what he called three major deficiencies in the report. He said it treats demand for natural gas for heating as a constant over the next decade, assumes no growth in onshore wind power in its renewables forecast, and downplays the beneficial impact electricity storage could have on the power grid.
Read the full article from CommonWealth Magazine here.