With temps rising, power grid back to normal
Natural gas resumes dominant role; wholesale prices fall
WITH TEMPERATURES RISING, the New England power grid returned to normal on Wednesday as wholesale prices fell and generators returned to producing electricity using natural gas instead of oil.
At 4:37 p.m. on Wednesday, the fuel mix of the region’s power generators was 53 percent natural gas, 25 percent nuclear, 8 percent renewables, 7 percent coal, 5 percent hydro, and less than 1 percent oil, according to real-time data available on the grid operator’s website.
At 5 p.m. last Thursday, the fuel mix was 27 percent oil, 24 percent natural gas, 22 percent nuclear, 12 percent renewables, 11 percent hydro, and 6 percent coal.
The locational marginal price of electricity at a central point in Massachusetts also fell dramatically. The price averaged $167.23 per megawatt hour during the cold snap between December 23 and January 7. The price fell to an average of $135 per megawatt hour on January 9 and then plummeted on Wednesday to an average of $69 per megawatt hour through two-thirds of the day.
The recent cold spell renewed the debate about whether New England needs additional natural gas pipeline capacity. ISO-New England may shed some light on that question soon. The power grid operator had been working on a fuel security study since late 2016 and planned to release it on October 24, 2017.The release was postponed when the Trump administration announced an initiative to provide additional financial support for nuclear and coal-fired power plants. Regulators rejected the initiative on Monday, but ISO-New England has yet to announce when its fuel security study will be released.
Few details have been released about the study, but it appears to focus on whether New England’s heavy reliance on natural gas for generating electricity could eventually put the grid at risk without the construction of additional pipeline capacity. The study is expected to analyze fuel security for the winter of 2024-2025 “because challenges to power system reliability are expected to be manageable in the near term.”