In A Power Generation Emergency, New England Resorts To Oil

The Christmas weekend storm brought more than just severe weather to New England. It also brought severe stress to the region’s power grid.

In times of normal electricity demand, New England doesn’t rely at all on oil as a fuel for power generation, and chooses less expensive nuclear, natural gas, and hydro and solar.

It is only when it has to, does the region fall back onto oil.

This weekend was one of those times.

On Christmas Eve, oil fired power generation was accountable for as much as 40% of the grid’s needs.

Bloomberg reports:

Oil took over from natural gas as the leading fuel for power plants in New England, a significant switch that signals how the grid is desperately trying to keep the lights on in the face of a winter massive storm.

The six-state grid relied on oil for at least a third of its power generation and for as much as 40% at times on Saturday, ISO New England data show. Natural gas provided as little as 15% by mid-afternoon.

The region typically only uses oil to meet demand on the hottest and coldest days of the year as back up. Heading into the peak evening hours, New England issued a series of grid alerts warning of a possible shortfall of power reserves and asked market members to voluntarily conserve electricity. 

The operator later said it’s trying to buy emergency supplies from market participants or neighboring regions. The situation is so tight that prices jumped to more than the $2,000 a megawatt-hour price cap on Saturday evening. This time last week, spot power was in the $30 range.

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