THE OPERATOR OF THE NEW ENGLAND power grid said on Thursday that demand for electricity will remain fairly flat over the next decade, but warned that the region will become more reliant on natural gas to meet its power needs.
The grid operator, ISO-New England, said in its 2017 system plan that the region’s growing reliance on natural gas and its inadequate pipeline capacity raise reliability concerns that “remain particularly critical during peak winter demand conditions.” Later this fall, the ISO is expected to release what it describes as a fuel security study, which many believe will make the case for the need for more gas pipelines coming into the region.
The report, unveiled at a conference at the World Trade Center, broke little new ground, but it came at a time when environmental advocates are pushing for dramatic changes in the way the region produces electricity. Some are pushing for carbon fees. Others are calling for a shift to 100 percent renewable energy. None of the advocates want to see the region increase its reliance on fossil fuels, and many of them have begun targeting Gordon van Welie, the president of ISO-New England, accusing him of being biased in favor of natural gas.
The ISO report spells out how difficult it may be to wean the region off of natural gas. The report said natural gas-fired plants represented 44.5 percent of the region’s generating capacity in 2016, a percentage that is forecasted to rise to 56 percent by 2026 as gas plants replace coal, oil, and nuclear plants that are shutting down.
“We need to change the direction we’re going in,” she said. “We need to do better. We need to do this at breakneck speed.”