Cold snap putting squeeze on oil-fired power plants
Generators running short on fuel, facing environmental restrictions
NEW ENGLAND’S POWER GRID OPERATOR said on Tuesday that the system is “operating under normal conditions,” but warned that the prolonged cold snap is driving up wholesale electricity prices and putting a squeeze on power plants that run on oil.
Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO-New England, issued a statement saying high demand for natural gas for heating “is causing natural gas pipeline constraints,” meaning pipeline capacity is not adequate to meet current demand in the region. As a result, the price of natural gas for delivery in New England is rising, prompting a shift to power generators who are using lower-cost oil and coal.
Blomberg said many of the oil-fired generators are operating around the clock and starting to run short on fuel. She also said some of the oil-fired generators “are experiencing air emissions limitations” and, as a result, are likely to soon face operating restrictions.“Environmental limitations on how much, or whether, some oil-fired power plants will be able to generate electricity could become a concern this week and for the remainder of the winter,” she said.
Wholesale electricity prices appear to be up dramatically in New England. According to data on the ISO website, the marginal price of electricity at a central location in Massachusetts averaged $140 per megawatt hour between December 23 and January 2. During the same period a year ago, the average price was $37 per megawatt hour.