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New England Grid Operator Wants More Flexibility To Deal With Retiring Fossil Fuel Plants

ISO-New England

The nonprofit that runs New England's electric grid says it will need more fuel and flexibility in the coming years to keep the lights on without prices spiking.

ISO-New England gave its annual "State of the Grid" briefing Tuesday.

CEO Gordon van Welie says New England now has more new wind capacity in the works than new natural gas capacity for the first time – and solar is also on the rise.

“All these renewable and clean energy resources are growing rapidly,” he says, “but it will be many years before New England can rely on these sources for all its power needs.”

For now, he says the region still relies on natural gas – and those supplies were stretched in the recent cold snap. Van Welie says power plants had to fall back too heavily on other fossil fuel-burning assets that will retire in the coming years.

This year, he says ISO will work with stakeholders on ways to offset those retirements and shore up supplies of natural gas and other fuels. 

The grid operator also wants to stabilize prices on its forward capacity market – where power companies agree to supply energy for years down the line.

ISO-New England is currently petitioning federal regulators for changes to that system. Van Welie says their plan would isolate the price effects of long-term state-subsidized power contracts, like the one Massachusetts is negotiating with Hydro Quebec. 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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