ISO-NE leadership, staff discuss power system reliability at FERC forum

Industry leaders gather at the 2023 New England Winter Gas-Electric Forum in Portland, Maine.

ISO New England leadership and staff were among a range of energy industry stakeholders and state officials participating in a forum convened by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 20 in Portland, Maine to discuss the challenges facing the New England’s power system.

Much of the forum centered on the future of the Everett Marine Terminal, which supplies fuel for the Mystic Generation Station that is set to close on June 1, 2024.

To set the stage for these discussions, Stephen George, the ISO’s director of operational performance, training and integration, presented an analysis of expected electric system operations over the next two winters, including an analysis of Winter 2024/2025 with and without the LNG facility.

George was then joined by Vamsi Chadalavada, the ISO’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, for a presentation on the initial findings of the a joint study between the ISO and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) looking at risks posed to the electric system by extreme weather events.

Vamsi Chadalavada, the ISO’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, left, and Stephen George, the ISO’s director of operational performance, training and integration, participated in several panel discussions.

The initial results of the Operational Impact of Extreme Weather Events-Energy Adequacy study focused on Winter 2027 and found relatively low risk of energy shortfalls on the electric system in that season, with or without the Everett facility. The study did not analyze the potential impact of the facility’s closure on the region’s natural gas system, as that system is outside the scope of the ISO’s expertise.

In their joint presentation, Chadalavada and George pointed out that the region’s increased use of solar power, the growth of offshore wind projects, additional transmission projects like the New England Clean Energy Connect, and limited energy demand growth are expected to minimized the risk of energy shortfalls in the near term.

Later in the day, Bob Ethier, the ISO’s vice president of system planning, participated in a panel on the path to sustainable solutions related to infrastructure. Mark Karl, vice president of market development and settlements, spoke about market improvements needed in the region.

Presentations from the forum are available online, as is a recording of the event.

Looking forward

To conclude the day, Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO New England, joined with officials from the six New England states to respond to what they’d heard throughout the forum.

ISO New England President and CEO Gordon van Welie provides comments during the forum’s final panel discussion.

“If you ask me about the risks, I am not feeling sanguine about the risk,” van Welie said. “In the short run I am feeling a little more relaxed where we are given the analysis, but in the longer run I am still as concerned as I have ever been.”

He urged regulators to ensure that the gas industry undertakes comprehensive assessments of the operational performance of the gas system, similar to the efforts by ISO New England in the electric system.

“The reality is that the gas and electric systems are highly interdependent, but we still oversee, analyze, operate and plan the systems in silos,” van Welie noted. “The other big assumption that our study rests upon is the fact that the region, the ISO, and the commission will follow through on a long list of very important market design reform that will be very difficult.”

In the coming months, ISO New England will release its analysis on the impact on operations from extreme weather under 2023 winter scenarios. Once the study is completed, the ISO will collaborate closely with the New England states and stakeholders to determine the best path forward.

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FERC, ISO leadership, natural gas, system operations