The ISO-NE reports, prepared by energy systems analysts with decades of experience, describes in great detail the operation of the grid during the cold weather period, with insufficient gas and fuel oil supply, and minimal solar most of the time, and near-zero wind on 5 days, and France taking advantage of the US by charge outrageously high prices for liquid natural gas (LNG), plus an outage of a major transmission line. It was a miracle rolling blackouts were avoided. Millions of New Englanders may not be so lucky next time.
Legislatures in Massachusetts and New York State have been preventing the timely construction of new gas lines to provide more low-cost, domestic natural gas to New England, but these same Legislatures think paying 3 times the New England price for imported LNG is quite all right. Such stupidity will add to the US trade deficit. High energy costs will become even more of a headwind for the NE economy. See Appendix.
See ISO-NE report: Cold Weather Operations December 24, 2017 – January 8, 2018
- Generation from all renewables (wind, refuse, wood, landfill gas, methane) was 9%, 7% and 6% of total NE grid load on 24 Dec 2017, 1 Jan 2018, and 6 Jan 2018, respectively. See page 14.
- Generation from about 2350 MW of PV solar at end 2017, on distribution grids, such as residential rooftop solar, varied from zero to 750 MW; was minimal during almost all hours of the period. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 48.
- Generation from about 82 MW of PV solar at end 2017, on high voltage grids, such as large-scale, field-mounted solar, varied from zero to 26 MW, was minimal during almost all hours of the period. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 49.
- Generation from about 1279 MW of wind turbines at end 2017 varied from a high of 1150 MW to lows of less than 100 MW on 5 days. Could not be relied on for electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 50.
NOTE: Wind, installed capacity was 1379 MW at end 2017, of which about 100 MW in Maine is connected to the Canadian grid, due to a lack of transmission to southern New England.
- Imports significantly varied from 1500 MW to 4000 MW during the period. Could be partially relied for on electrical service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365. See page 42.
Rolling Blackout Article by Meredith Angwin
The article, titled “Rolling blackouts are probably coming to New England” by Meredith Angwin, was widely published in New England, largely because an energy systems analyst with decades of experience authored it.
The below letter to the editor by Mr. Hewett was published in the Providence Journal, Rhode Island, of June 6, 2018. See Appendix.
- He is a member of 350.org, Massachusetts.
- He accuses ISO-NE, the operator of the NE grid, of making pessimistic and wrong assumptions in the ISO-NE report: Operational Fuel Security Analysis. See URL.
- He disagrees with Angwin's article regarding the likelihood of future rolling blackouts New England.
- He thinks Synapse Energy Economics knows better about the grid than ISO-NE.
Synapse Energy Economics
Synapse Energy Economics performed an analysis of the ISO-NE “Operational Fuel Security Analysis”. See URL.
Synapse was paid by the Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center, New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, PowerOptions, RENEW Northeast, and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.
They did not like the way ISO-NE had made its analysis. All these sponsors are avidly promoting wind, solar, and other measures. Synapse Energy Economics is their go-to consultant to provide them with reports that support their views and objectives.
The Synapse analysis claims:
- The ISO-NE analysis "suffers" from being overly conservative and therefore used flawed assumptions about how the NE grid is likely to evolve in the future.
- ISO-NE is not being realistic regarding current grid and fuel conditions, and also not understanding the future development of RE, in particular wind and solar.
- ISO-NE did not sufficiently take into account the mandated RE build-outs enacted by the six legislatures of New England.
Wind and Solar at Near Zero During the December - February Period
ISO-NE has collected minute-by-minute wind and solar production data for the NE grid for at least the past 10 years. The data shows wind and solar are simultaneously near zero for many hours throughout the year, especially during the December - February period, when wind and solar are often near zero, due to 1) multi-day wind lulls, 2) low winter insolation, and 3) multi-day snow and ice on most of the panels. That would be true regardless of a doubling or tripling of the installed capacity of wind and solar.
Therefore, ISO-NE is being very prudent by not fully counting on wind and solar regarding 1) the real-time available electricity generating capacity, and 2) the real-time available fuels for traditional generators, preferably at as low a cost as possible.
However, Synapse considers such prudence as being “overly conservative” and making “flawed assumptions”, and “not understanding how the NE grid would likely evolve in the future”.
Synapse appears to take a rosy view which includes:
1) Shutting down reliable, all-weather, coal, oil, gas and nuclear plants that produce electricity at less than 5 c/kWh is OK for New England’s economy. After all, gas supplies would not be needed, because of the shutdowns, and all buildings would be heated with heat pumps, and all vehicles would be plug-in all-electric or plug-in hybrid.
2) Building out unreliable, weather-dependent wind and solar systems, plus building out the necessary grid systems, that produce electricity at 2 to 4 times the cost, is OK for New England’s economy which, at present, already has the highest energy costs in the US.
3) Daily, weekly and seasonal energy shifting, by means of utility-scale battery systems, or other storage systems, would be low-cost and deployed all over New England by 2025 - 2030. Energy storage systems would be required, if traditional plants were shutdown.
NOTE: This article describes in detail the storage capacity, MWh, and cost of energy storage systems to cover ACTUAL multi-day lulls of wind and solar in Germany.
A Better Method of Analysis
ISO-NE has the minute-by-minute production data for ALL NE grid energy sources for at least the past 10 years
ISO-NE can determine the wind and solar contribution on a minute-by-minute basis for at least the past 10 years.
ISO-NE can likely prove the near-zero output of wind and solar for many hours during the critical December - February period.
ISO-NE can likely prove increased future build-outs of wind and solar (mandated by legislatures or not) would not materially make a difference regarding the need for various fuels to keep the traditional generators running to maintain electricity service at 99.97% reliability, 24/7/365.
Letter: Frederick Hewett: Experts’ fears of blackouts are misguided, exaggerated
Meredith Angwin’s argument for coal and nuclear power in the name of “energy diversity” (“We’ll lose power in winters ahead,” Commentary, June 1) fails on multiple counts.
First, the ISO-NE study that warns of rolling blackouts is seriously flawed. The assumptions ISO-NE used as the basis for its modeling did not adequately take into account the region’s legislated commitments to increasing the use of renewables, did not include the commitment by Massachusetts to import 1,000 megawatts of hydropower, and underestimated the availability of liquefied natural gas. Running the same models after correcting for the faulty assumptions gives a different result: the grid will be reliable if the region continues on its current policy path.
Second, the statement that we need to diversify “beyond renewables and natural gas” is nonsense. Renewable energy includes land-based wind, offshore wind, commercial and residential solar, demand management, and imported hydropower. As these energy sources increase, dependence on natural gas will decrease. As for coal, there is no serious case that one can make.
What Angwin wants is nuclear power. When the nuclear industry demonstrates it can build safe and economic power stations and manage the toxic waste they produce, there will be a role for nuclear energy. Until then, we should base our future energy policy on existing renewable options.
My Response to Mr. Hewett’s Letter
Meredith Angwin has over 40 years of experience in the analysis and design of energy systems. ISO-NE employs some of the best professional energy systems analysts in the US.
Variable and intermittent wind and solar electricity cannot exist on any electric grid without the traditional, dispatchable generators performing the peaking, filling-in and balancing. Battery systems could be used, but the cost would be well in excess of $400 per kilowatt-hour delivered as AC to the high voltage grid. See Note.
Wind and Solar are Miniscule After 20 years of Subsidies: Wind and solar (before and after the meter) were 2.7 and 1.97 percent of all electricity on the NE grid in 2017, per ISO-NE. Total RE electricity was 10.17 percent (including before and after the meter solar), after about 20 years of subsidies. It should be obvious, past RE development has been very slow.
It looks like New Englanders will need traditional generators for at least several decades.
Renewable energy proponents want to close down existing coal, gas, oil and nuclear plants; all produce electricity at less than 5 cent per kilowatt-hour and obstruct increased, low-cost natural gas flow via pipelines.
The prices of wind and solar paid by NE utilities to producers are much higher than in the rest of the US, because of New England’s mediocre wind and solar conditions.
Onshore/ridge line wind about 9.5 cent per kilowatt-hour
Offshore wind at least 18 cent
Large-scale, field-mounted, competitively auctioned solar about 13 cent
Residential, rooftop solar about 15.1 cent
The above prices would be about 30 to 50% higher without the subsidies, and even higher without cost shifting to ratepayers and taxpayers, such as for:
1) The filling-in, peaking and balancing, due to wind and solar variability/intermittency;
2) Grid-related, such as grid extensions and augmentations to connect and deal with wind and solar;
3) Utility-scale energy storage, which is presently provided by the world’s fuel supply system.
List of Articles Showing the Very High Costs of Energy Storage
Massachusetts and Offshore Wind Systems: Massachusetts has a new energy law. The key provision in the 37-page law is a mandate for utilities to solicit long-term contracts with offshore wind system owners to bring at least 1,600 MW (nameplate capacity) into the state by June 2027.
The turnkey capital cost of such wind turbine plants, plus transmission to shore, plus onshore grid modifications, would be at least $9 billion, and the electricity cost would be at least 16 - 18 c/kWh. See URL.
In addition, utilities would also be required to solicit contracts for up to 1,200 additional MW of clean energy generation that could include a mix of hydro, onshore wind and solar.
NOTE: New England wholesale prices have averaged about 5 c/kWh for steady, 24/7/365 electricity since about 2008, primarily due to:
- Natural gas electricity; 50% of NE generation, low-cost (5 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting, clean (no particulates), domestic fuel
- Nuclear electricity; 26% of NE generation, low-cost (5 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting, clean (no particulates), domestic fuel
Construction would require huge sea-going tugs, cranes and other specialized vessels to assemble those 600-ft tall wind turbines. Europe has perfected that equipment, but the US does not even have it. Europe offshore wind capacity is 12,900 MW, versus the US 30 MW at end 2017.
European companies, such as Vestas and DONG of Denmark, Siemens of Germany, etc., will make big profits. Wall Street banks will make loans, and financial managers will collect fees for managing the tax shelters for the multi-millionaire investors. New England ratepayers will pay for the outrageously high cost of electricity.
Just another way for EU, etc., to hamstring the New England and US economy into higher cost structures and make them less competitive, all under the false flag of fighting global warming, and saving the world. See URLs.
The US has plenty of domestic low-cost energy. It does not need to build expensive offshore wind systems.
The EU imports most of its energy. It HAS to build expensive offshore wind systems.
The EU likely thinks, if the US does not follow the EU into high-cost renewable energy, the US would have a competitive advantage, and attract energy-intensive businesses, which must be avoided at all costs.
LNG Deliveries to Boston: The Christophe de Margerie, a Russian-owned icebreaking tanker named after the deceased former CEO of Total, motored into Isle de Grain, UK, on Dec. 28, according to market information provider ICIS. It unloaded LNG from the new Yamal gas/oil plant in Russia*.
The Gaselys, a French-owned tanker, arrived at Isle de Grain, UK.
It took on a cargo of commingled LNG, including LNG from the Christophe de Margerie.*
It left the port on Jan. 7
It arrived at the ENGIE terminal (owned by a French company) in Everett, Mass., three weeks later and delivered its payload.
* A large LNG storage facility in the UK that receives gas from many sources, including the Netherlands, Norway Middle East, Russia, etc.
* Shipments of Russian oil and gas are not subject to sanctions, but “US persons and those in the US” are prohibited from financing Novatek, the lead company in the construction of Yamal LNG. Total, a French company, owns 20% of Yamal.
* Whereas, there is no way of knowing the Russian percentage, the US media quickly labeled it Russian LNG.
* Both LNG tankers were built in South Korea. It is amazing how much of the LNG infrastructure, and LNG storage plants, and LNG fleets are built and owned by foreigners! See URL.
Plant Closures and Economics and Politics
Since 2010, California closed one nuclear plant (2,140 MW) and Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 other reactors at currently operating plants (10,980 MW in total). Those closures were due to political pressures by RE aficionados, who also pressure to close “dirty” coal plants.
Wind and solar owners are allowed to feed their heavily subsidized electricity into the grid regardless of whether it is needed or not, and, usually, they get paid at above wholesale feed-in tariff rates, or at above wholesale power purchase agreement, PPA, rates; a “no lose” deal for those owners, paid for by everyone else (subsidies, cost shifting, higher prices for goods and services).
However, nuclear and coal plant owners usually get paid at wholesale prices, which have been decreasing due to the combination of 1) increased, heavily subsidized wind and solar, and 2) increased generation with low cost gas.
Remember, variable and intermittent wind and solar electricity cannot exist on any electric grid without the traditional, dispatchable, flexible, generators, primarily gas turbine plants, performing the peaking, filling-in and balancing. So it is only natural the owners of wind and solar plants and the owners of gas plants having political coalitions to promote their own agendas, which include the closures of coal and nuclear plants.
However, the US national security sector relies on the US electrical sector for 99% of its electricity. It is of vital importance for the US to have a large capacity of power plants, with large, onsite fuel storage, such as coal and nuclear plants, to ensure electricity service at a reliability of 99.97% or better, 24/7/365. Having just wind and solar, plus gas plants would greatly diminish the ensuring of that reliability.
Wind and Solar Electricity is Minuscule After 20 years of Subsidies: Wind and solar (before and after the meter) were 2.7 and 1.97 percent of all electricity on the NE grid in 2017, per ISO-NE. Total RE electricity was 10.17 percent (including before and after the meter solar), after about 20 years of subsidies.
- Past RE development has been very slow even with subsidies.
- Federal investment tax credit subsidies for wind and solar are scheduled to decrease.
- NE will need traditional generators for decades.
NOTE: The realities of life are it took decades to increase:
- Natural gas from a few percent of the US electricity mix to over 30% in 2017
- Nuclear from zero percent of the US electricity mix to about 20% in 2017
- Wind and solar from near zero of the US electricity mix to 6.4% and 1.9%, respectively in 2017, and it would take decades more to have 30% to 40% of the US electricity mix from wind and solar, plus electricity generation uses only about 40% of all US primary energy. Converting that other 60% to renewables would be a Herculean task and very expensive, as shown in this article.