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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Connecticut ready for energy demands this summer 'under typical weather conditions'

    Barring the unforeseen, New England’s electric grid operator forecasts that this summer, the region will meet consumer demands for electricity.

    ISO New England, which manages the electric grid in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, said in a news release Wednesday that this optimistic outlook can take place “under typical weather conditions.”

    “Tight supply margins could develop if forecasted peak system conditions associated with above average hot and humid weather occur,” the news release reads.

    “Nothing is, in my opinion, out of the question given climate change issues,” state Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, a co-chair on the state legislature’s energy committee, said. “No weather scenario is off the table. However, within the normal framework of operations, I don’t think that there’s a capacity problem during the summer.”

    Millstone Power Station in Waterford relies on water from Long Island Sound to cool its nuclear reactors. It is also possible that a heat wave could raise the water temperature to an untenable level and require the plant to shut down. Needleman calls this “a really remote possibility.” ISO New England noted that “an extended heat wave” can result in “increased consumer demand, fuel supply issues or emissions limitations that affect the amount of electric generation available.”

    “While rare, there are circumstances that require Millstone to reduce its output or be taken offline,” Dominion Energy, the company that operates Millstone, said in a statement to The Day. “In those circumstances, New England benefits from a regional grid, and other generators are called upon to provide power to the system. That power is often more expensive and accompanied by much higher carbon dioxide emissions than Millstone’s.”

    Rolling blackouts due to a stressed national power grid, among other factors, are becoming more common in other parts of the country, including California, Texas and the Midwest.

    But in New England, according to ISO New England, “This summer, under typical weather conditions, electricity demand is forecasted to reach 24,686 megawatts (MW). Above-average summer weather, such as an extended heat wave, could push demand up to 26,416 MW. … More than 31,000 MW of capacity is expected to be available to meet New England consumer demand for electricity and required reserves." 

    State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Will Healey said that, “unlike other regions in the United States, New England is well positioned to meet summer peak demand.”

    “The region currently has excess capacity. It would take several poorly timed contingencies (failure of major generation stations and transmission lines) in order for there to be an energy shortage,” Healey wrote in an email. “Thus, while there is always a chance things can go wrong, DEEP expects Connecticut customers will not face rolling blackouts due to a heat wave. Storm-related outages remain a concern but under the regulatory oversight of PURA (Public Utilities Regulatory Authority), the EDCs (electric distribution companies) have been making progress toward being prepared to handle storm-related outages and hardening of the grid.

    Healey acknowledged that Millstone could shut down if a heat wave abnormally warms Long Island Sound waters. But: “There are also protocols in effect that would require a unit shutdown if those limits were exceeded.”

    Healey stressed the importance of renewable energy sources to make sure the state meets its energy demands this summer, including solar, wind, hydro and nuclear generation.

    “Dominion Energy is focused on operating Millstone Power Station safely and reliably to help meet the demand for electricity in Connecticut and New England this summer, just as we strive to do every day, no matter the season,” Dominion Energy/Millstone said in its statement. “Millstone produces reliable, carbon-free power more than 90% of the time, and we are increasing the station’s output by 20 MW, which is enough to supply approximately 20,000 additional homes, by investing in a new generator at Unit 3.”

    Asked how much the energy readiness of New England states affects Connecticut, Healey said that the six New England states are “interdependent."

    “As New England has very little transmission constraints at this time, all states would most likely face the same rolling blackouts consistent with their share of load,” Healey wrote.

    DEEP’s role in energy preparation is advocating for the state’s interest in the regional process in energy market rules, “and helping plan Connecticut’s transition to a clean, resilient and carbon-free energy future,” Healey wrote.

    “In the event that there are challenges to the power system, DEEP would support the governor, the EDCs and PURA in communications with the public and in any outreach to federal regulators to pursue any available emergency options to help mitigate the problem,” he added.

    Eversource could not be reached to comment on this story. But in a Wednesday news release, it warned customers of a price increase, blaming “the conflict in Ukraine causing energy supply constraints, continued increased demand as the economy recovers from the pandemic and extreme weather impacting gas-producing states.” The company urged residents to use Eversource resources on how to conserve energy, and to take individual actions such as keeping air conditioners at 78 degrees.

    “This year, on July 1, the Standard Service Charge for residential customers who receive their energy supply from Eversource will change from 11.574 cents per kilowatt-hour to 12.190 cents per kilowatt-hour,” Eversource said in the news release. “Eversource does not earn a profit on the cost of electricity — the energy company only charges customers what it pays generators for producing the power. On average, an Eversource residential electric customer who uses 700 kilowatt hours of power each month could see an increase of about 2.2% over their current monthly bill — approximately $3.96 per month — on the supply portion of the bill.”

    Needleman warned that energy readiness for the winter months is more critical than in the summer.

    “Extreme cold is the bigger problem, in my opinion, because in the winter, losing power is a major, major life-threatening event, especially losing power or an unplanned extended outage,” Needleman said. “People’s lives are at risk because people freeze to death. That’s why the winter reliability issues are at the forefront of everybody’s mind. A regional storm, like a Superstorm Sandy, that hit New England would be catastrophic for us.”


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