ISO New England eyes transmission upgrades in system plan

With the New England power system undergoing a transformation through power plant retirements and an increasing reliance on renewable resources and natural gas-fired generation facilities, the addition of transmission in the coming years will help the region maintain reliability and meet public policy goals, ISO New England said Nov. 5 in its 2015 Regional System Plan.

The plan includes the addition of 210 transmission projects over the next 10 years at a cost of $4.8 billion. From 2002 to June 2015, 634 transmission projects were placed in service at a cost of $7.2 billion, with the investments improving reliability and dramatically reducing congestion, ISO New England said.

The Regional System Plan is an annual report to meet requirements established by FERC, NERC and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council, and it is produced in accordance with ISO New England‘s open access transmission tariff, the grid operator said in a Nov. 5 statement. The issuance of the report followed a draft version that was released in September and discussed by stakeholders.

The plan said that from 2010 to summer 2018, generation retirements will total at least 4,050 MW. Older oil, coal and nuclear units are at risk of retirement due to economic and environmental pressures, and they are likely to be replaced by more gas-fired generation facilities, ISO New England said.

Compliance with FERC’s Order 1000 also will be a factor in the future, and interregional planning through the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative (EIPC) can help address regional policy goals and infrastructure needs, according to the report. Imports of power from other regions, including New York and Eastern Canada, are expected to continue given the level of import capacity supply obligations cleared in the forward capacity auctions, ISO New England said.

In addition, ISO New England “is developing significant new processes for competitive solicitations for transmission projects to address reliability needs that are not expected to emerge within three years, as well as planning for transmission projects to meet public policy objectives,” it said.

The EIPC, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, studied the interaction among the gas and power industries, including scenario analyses for the entire Eastern Interconnection, the report noted.

“The results of the scenarios and sensitivities studied show that, of all regions, ISO New England is at greatest risk of natural gas supply issues that could adversely affect the electric power system. The natural gas system for New England would be constrained for nearly all market conditions and resource mixes studied for winter 2018 and 2023, the two individual years studied.”

The use of dual-fuel generation units, the redispatch of other units, changes in gas system operations and other power grid operator actions would be necessary to mitigate adverse reliability consequences, ISO New England said.

The changing dynamics in the region provide opportunities for ISO New England to address them, but also challenges associated with securing energy supplies, reliability and price issues, Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO New England, said in the statement.

“The ISO is addressing these challenges with changes in both operations and markets, in collaboration with the New England states, market participants, end users and consumer advocates, and neighboring regions,” he said.

ISO New England’s Winter Reliability Program will be needed through the winter of 2017/2018 to ensure that generation resources have the fuel needed to operate at times of system stress or high demand, and ISO New England continues to improve its coordination with gas pipeline operators to address challenges posed by pipeline constraints, according to the report.

The growth of solar power and behind-the-meter resources, which ISO New England cannot observe or dispatch, adds complexity to power system forecasting and operations, it noted.

New England currently has about 850 MW of wind power facilities, with 4,000 MW proposed to be added, and the grid operator is conducting system reliability assessments to identify any upgrades needed to integrate wind power in remote areas.

ISO New England “has incorporated a wind forecasting tool into system operations to manage the variability of wind for reliable system operation, and plans call for further integrating wind into economic dispatch,” it said.

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