In her excellent book Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid, Meredith Angwin describes how a combination of bad policy, complicated governance, and dense bureaucracy has made the entire electric grid of New England incredibly vulnerable to collapse, especially during winter cold snaps (you can buy Angwin’s book here and follow her Twitter account here). She tells the story of how Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) like ISO New England have evolved to oversee bulk electric power systems and transmission lines, and how producers of electricity must subordinate their natural gas consumption for use in home heating during extreme cold weather events. Of course, the demand for electricity skyrockets during these same extreme events as people supplement their home heating needs with electric space heaters, further exacerbating the problem.
Angwin goes on the tell the story of how New England’s electric grid nearly collapsed during cold snaps in late December 2017 and early January 2018. In the book, she quotes from an op-ed she wrote for the Valley News shortly after the incident (emphasis added throughout this piece):
“Around 5:00 P.M. on January 6, 2018, I snapped a light on as the sun went down. The temperature was around minus 8 degrees Fahrenheit. It had been zero at lunchtime and would be minus 15 the next morning. As usual, the light went on. As grid operator ISO New England had planned, oil had saved the grid. During that very cold week, about one-third of New England’s electricity came from burning oil. The people at ISO-NE might think it is unfair to say that they planned to save the grid with oil, but they did, because of the Winter Reliability Program.”
She goes on to describe that while burning oil had averted disaster, it had only barely done so. The grid was hours away from rolling blackouts before the weather thankfully turned warmer. The book then covers the broken interplay between policy, markets, and fuel security, how renewables impact the grid, and her thoughts on a more rational path forward. It is well worth a full read.
You would think that the near collapse of their energy grid would have motivated the good people of New England to get serious about shoring up their energy needs ahead of future cold snaps. You would be wrong. Instead, they have set about the task of systematically dismantling existing critical infrastructure and blocking the development of proven technologies. In 2019, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was shuttered, leaving New England with only two nuclear power facilities. There are no plans to build more.
More urgently, virtually every attempt to expand the region’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure has been delayed, blocked, or abandoned. Here’s a sobering report from InsideSources from mid-2019 that describes the situation:
“As activists become more adept at enlisting government in their war on oil and gas pipelines, even small projects are becoming difficult to build.
Last month, voters in Longmeadow, Mass., approved a non-binding ballot measure encouraging the town to buy land to block a local natural gas metering and transfer station.
This past Earth Day, the mayor of Holyoke, Mass., announced............................
Read the full article at the following weblink:
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