New England's grid operator says it may have to go into emergency mode and employ planned power outages if harsh winter weather strikes the region.
The head of ISO New England, Inc., which manages the region's wholesale electricity market, said Monday the northeast would be forced into that "precarious position" if extremely cold weather were to collide with strained heating fuel supplies.
Gordon van Welie, ISO's president and CEO, noted three variables that would affect operators' decision-making: weather severity, global oil and gas prices, which he said "could affect storage and deliveries into New England," and natural gas pipeline constraints.
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"In recent years, oil and [liquified natural gas] have filled the gaps when extended periods of very cold weather have constrained natural gas pipeline supplies," van Welie said in a statement. "Higher prices globally for these fuels, as well as pandemic-related supply chain challenges, could limit their availability in New England if needed to produce electricity this winter."
"The region would be in a precarious position if an extended cold snap were to develop and these fuels were not available," van Welie added, emphasizing that the utility is preparing the region in case it has to request customers conserve energy to avoid blackouts.
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Regulators and independent bodies such as the Energy Information Administration have told customers to expect higher energy bills this winter as natural gas prices remain at multiyear highs around the world.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has, however, projected the eastern U.S. to see warmer-than-average temperatures.