Electricity brownouts possible Thursday as NE grid pushed to its limit

Boston, MA, August 8, 2001 — As Boston braces for the fourth day of 90 plus degree weather on Thursday, the New England Power grid will be pushed to its limit, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) – a Boston-based energy research firm reported today.

ESAI expects power prices to reach the $1,000/MWh cap on Thursday and sees brownouts and load shedding as distinct possibilities.

“Tomorrow is going to be a very interesting day for the New England ISO, as its options for dealing with increased demand are limited,” says Jaya Bajpai, ESAI power analyst. Bajpai explains that load shedding – where the New England ISO calls large power users and requests them to decrease their electricity use – has limited effectiveness in the Boston area since there are not easily identifiable large electricity users.

“The large users tend to be service-oriented institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and information technology providers. Such groups cannot cut load beyond a point – unlike an aluminum smelter which could free up a considerable amount of energy by shutting down.,” Bajpai explains.

The New England ISO may have difficulty utilizing another tried and true option tomorrow as well: importing electricity from New York and Canada. “New York is experiencing its own heat wave, so don’t expect them to have much electricity to spare,” says Bajpai. “And power from Canada is constrained by transmission limits.”

“Look for potential problems to occur between 1:00 and 5:00 pm tomorrow,” Bajpai says. “Load is currently forecast to be above New England-based supply during those hours. That makes the grid particularly vulnerable to either an outage-driven reduction in supply or heat-driven demand above forecasted levels.”

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