ISO-NE innovates in 2023 with studies that envision the future power system

ISO New England presented findings from several innovative studies during 2023, each aimed at addressing different aspects of the clean energy transition. System planners, operators, economists, and other experts at the ISO will continue working in the new year and beyond to facilitate the states’ pursuit of decarbonization goals and ensure New England has reliable electricity at competitive wholesale prices.

Operational Impact of Extreme Weather Events

The first-of-its-kind Operational Impact of Extreme Weather Events study examined how the region’s power system would fare under stressful future weather and operational conditions. Collaborating on the study with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the ISO concluded that winter energy shortfall risk appears manageable through 2032. The ISO published a final report on the study’s results in December.

The study created a framework for ongoing assessments of energy shortfall risks. This Probabilistic Energy Adequacy Tool (PEAT) will help identify circumstances that could lead to an energy shortfall—the region’s electricity supply falling below consumer demand—giving the region’s stakeholders advance warning and the opportunity to take steps to avert it.

In addition, the ISO and stakeholders will use study results to develop a Regional Energy Shortfall Threshold (REST), establishing an acceptable level of energy shortfall risk common to the six states.

As the study demonstrates, New England’s energy shortfall risk is dynamic, and will be a function of the evolution of supply and demand. Timely additions of solar power, offshore wind, and imported electricity will be needed to mitigate energy shortfall risks that result from peak winter load growth and the retirement of existing generators in the region.

2050 Transmission Study

The ISO conducted the landmark 2050 Transmission Study in response to a recommendation by the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) to conduct a comprehensive long-term analysis of regional transmission needs. The study assessed the transmission system investment needed to reliably deliver all the power the region needs into the middle of the century, amid an evolving resource mix and an expected near-tripling of winter peak demand.

Findings presented in November indicate that limiting peak electricity use through demand response, energy efficiency, or other means would significantly reduce the amount New England must spend on transmission upgrades over the next two-plus decades. Cumulative costs to upgrade the transmission system could reach $17 billion to reliably serve a 51 GW peak in 2050, or $26 billion to support a 57 GW peak.

The draft report includes sets of potential solutions, or roadmaps, designed to assist stakeholders in their efforts to facilitate the clean energy transition.

The longer-term transmission study process is currently informational, and does not include a formal mechanism for triggering the construction of new transmission projects. Stakeholder discussions are underway around a new process to allow the ISO and the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) to choose which transmission system concerns to address, and to solicit project proposals and advance them toward construction.

The final 2050 Transmission Study report is expected in early 2024.

Regional System Plan

The 2023 Regional System Plan (RSP23), finalized in November, is a comprehensive look at the evolving needs of the region’s power grid.

Issued once every two years, the Regional System Plan assesses the types of resources and transmission facilities the region will need over the next 10 years, while accounting for market efficiencies and economic and environmental considerations. It is not a proposal to build specific projects.

RSP23 is the culmination of an open, public process conducted through public meetings of the Planning Advisory Committee, where stakeholders—including market participants, state officials, and consumer and environmental advocates—offer input and feedback. In response to some of this feedback, this year’s RSP is shorter and more accessible than past editions.

Economic Planning for the Clean Energy Transition

Work continues on the Economic Planning for the Clean Energy Transition (EPCET) pilot study, a trial run of the new Economic Study Process and new methods of modeling potential operational, economic, and environmental impacts of the future grid. The ISO’s new economic study process improves on past approaches with a cohesive, repeatable framework based on defined reference scenarios and additional stakeholder-requested sensitivities. A summary report on EPCET is planned for the second quarter of 2024.

Inside ISO New England
innovation, regional system plan, transmission planning