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Gas to power majority of New England by 2020

14 Nov 2017 18:22 GMT
Gas to power majority of New England by 2020

Houston, 14 November (Argus) — The electric grid operator for the New England region expects natural gas-fired generation to make up the lion's share of its system capacity mix by 2020.

ISO-New England's gas-fired generation should grow from 44.5pc of the mix this year to about 51pc by 2020 and increase further to 56pc by 2026, the operator said in its 2017 Regional System Plan, a biennial report on long-term planning. The report details power system needs for the next decade and how those needs can be addressed.

The grid operator earlier this year said accessing adequate natural gas for the region's generators was its "most pressing challenge" for 2017, as few interstate pipelines and LNG delivery points in New England are available to serve its plants. Regional pipelines were built to serve heating demand, not power generation, and these lines already run at or near maximum capacity during cold weather.

The planning report said further retirements of coal and oil generators are expected after 2020 because of generally low natural gas prices, renewable energy additions and pending environmental regulations. The 685MW Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is scheduled for retirement in 2019, and uncertainty still surrounds the future of 3,300MW of retiring nuclear plants in the region. From 2010 to mid-2020, power plant retirements will total about 4,800MW, the report said.

The region is projected to have sufficient resources to meet capacity requirements, but limited availability of natural gas transportation infrastructure remains a concern, especially during winter operating conditions.

The ISO said it is conducting an operational fuel-security analysis to quantify the region's risk. The results will be released in 2018.

In October, Footprint Power said its 674MW Salem Harbor natural gas-fired power plant in Salem, Massachusetts, should be ready to begin service within the next several months. The company declined to give a specific date. The plant is under construction at the location of the original Salem Harbor Generating Station, a retired coal-fired plant.

The new plant's start date was delayed from June, causing tighter supply margins for ISO-New England.