Utilities warn of potential rolling blackouts; new technologies, battery storage other measures considered
Eversource Energy, Avangrid, National Grid and other New England utilities have called for expanded energy efficiency and demand response programs heading into the 2022-2023 winter season, as tight natural gas supplies threaten the region’s ability generate electricity. An extremely cold winter could result in the need for rolling blackouts, according to ISO New England Inc., the region’s power-grid operator.
Meanwhile, residential and commercial electricity consumers can expect to pay substantially more for power this winter to cover the increased cost of fuel to run the region’s power plants. New England power producers are limited in their ability to store fuel on site and in the winter can have difficulty contracting for natural gas supplies, with most of the pipeline capacity reserved for serving homes and businesses. So instead, they normally rely on the spot market to meet supply shortfalls, but gas prices have been extremely volatile.
With Russia’s halt of natural gas supplies to Europe amid the war in Ukraine, power producers in New England are now competing with Europe for liquified natural gas (LNG) shipments. Where New England typically relies on LNG to supplement its natural gas supplies during the winter months, LNG suppliers are focusing on Europe, where the per-Btu price of natural gas is more than triple that typically paid in the Northeastern U.S., leaving New England power producers in a precarious position.
In a recent meeting of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held in Burlington, VT, several measures were discussed, including waiving the Jones Act to make it easier to import LNG during an emergency. Under the Jones Act, all products shipped between ports in the U.S. must be done so only on U.S.-built and -flagged ships, owned and operated by U.S. citizens. As of February, 2020, there were no U.S. flagged LNG ships, according to Natural Gas Intelligence.
Representatives of the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) also recommended that newer technologies such as wind turbines, solar, hydroelectric generation and electricity storage technology be part of any plan to address the long-term winter reliability of the region’s power grid.
On-Demand Energy Storage Solutions and Incentives
In Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, new incentive programs are enabling businesses to receive advanced battery storage systems with no cost. These systems provide for on-demand electricity and are used to reduce a facility’s electricity demand during summer peak hours, earning revenue from grid operators. But with the prospect of rolling blackouts in the winter, reducing demand during cold weather snaps can also prove critical. With increased battery storage capacity, the impact of tight natural gas supplies can be partially mitigated by the availability of battery installation serving as virtual power plants during these critical periods.
In Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, commercial facilities with loads of more than 250 kW may be able to host a battery storage system with no costs. Customers seeking to participate and who are offered the battery system receive the benefit of battery storage if power fails and also keep the on-bill savings, which can include demand-charge reduction and Installed Capacity reduction.
To learn more about these battery offers as well as how thermal energy storage can reduce the cost of electricity for a commercial building year-round, visit https://cleanpeakenergy.us.
To schedule an informational call to discuss these offers and other ways to reduce electricity costs year-round, visit