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ISO New England may ask customers to cut back on electricity usage this winter

The grid operator said it may ask residents and businesses to conserve energy in the event of extreme cold stretches.

ISO New England said Monday that the region should have enough electricity supplies to make it through mild and moderate weather conditions this winter. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

New Englanders could be asked to limit their electricity usage this winter amid increased global fuel demand, according to the region’s grid operator.

In a Monday news release, ISO New England said the region should have enough electricity supplies to make it through mild and moderate weather conditions this winter.

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However, “if long periods of severely cold weather develop, we’ll lean on our forecasting tools to identify potential problems early enough to take proactive measures, such as calling for increased fuel deliveries or asking for public conservation,” ISO-NE President and CEO Gordon van Welie said in a statement.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to increased global demand for liquefied natural gas — used in New England’s gas distribution and electric systems — and resulted in higher prices, the grid operator noted. Several energy suppliers have raised their rates in recent months, with some utility leaders and politicians sounding the alarm on New England’s natural gas supply. 

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting above-average temperatures for New England this winter, ISO-NE said that a warmer season does not eliminate the threat of prolonged cold stretches, especially as climate change makes weather harder to predict.

The grid operator said it anticipates that generators using stored fuels like oil and liquefied natural gas will operate around the clock during prolonged periods of extreme cold. Requests for businesses and residents to conserve energy during those cold stretches would aim to extend fuel supplies until warmer weather or additional deliveries, ISO-NE explained.

However, ISO-NE said it doesn’t expect to call for controlled power outages this winter and “would resort to this drastic step only to prevent a collapse of the power system that would take days or weeks to repair,” according to the release.

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The grid operator said it has procedures and plans in place to identify and publicize possible fuel supply shortfalls weeks in advance, allowing time for coordination with the region’s utilities and government officials.

“Preparing for any season requires coordination,” van Welie said. “By working together in advance, the ISO, the utilities, the energy industry, and government officials can ensure we’re all on the same page should challenging conditions materialize.”

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