ISO New England facing retirement of many non-gas power units

Although ISO New England (ISO NE) is growing increasingly reliant on electricity generated by natural gas, the region is challenged to meet demand with existing gas infrastructure, particularly during the winter.

ISO New England Director of External Affairs Eric Johnson discussed the situation at the GenForum gathering Aug. 23 in Columbus, Ohio. GenForum, organized by GenerationHub, is a co-located event with the PennWell POWER-GEN/Natural Gas Conference.

New England is looking to find new ways to meet peak demand as existing plants close, Johnson said during a panel discussion on regional impacts of natural gas generation.

Between 2000 and 2015, New England has shifted its power grid from a combination of nuclear, oil and coal to one dominated by natural gas. Natural gas accounted for 18% of ISO NE’s generating resource in 2000 compared to 44% today. Oil is a distant second at 21%.

As far as energy mix, natural gas accounts for 49% of the electric generation; with nuclear being second at 30%, according to 2015 figures.

Power plant emissions have declined with changes in the fuel mix, but fuel diversity has suffered, according to the data.

More than 4,200 MW of non-gas generation have recently retired or announced plans to retire. While fossil plant retirements dominant, Entergy (NYSE:ETR) has retired the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant announced retirement plans for the Pilgrim nuclear plant. Johnson acknowledged this loss of non-carbon generation will affect the region.

At the same time, various states in New England are pursuing plans to increase renewable power and decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Developers are proposing to build 13,700 MW of generation, including 8,600 MW of gas-fired generation and more than 4,200 MW of wind, Johnson said.

But transmission infrastructure will be needed to tap into new wind power resources in Maine and move it to the more populated areas of New England, Johnson said.

As of this May, 14 electric transmission projects have been filed in the interconnection queue, which could conceivable move more than 9,000 MW. Proposals would move power generated from large-scale hydro projects in eastern Canada and wind projects from northern New England, Johnson said.

The future will look different, Johnson said. “We are evolving into a “hybrid” grid with grid-connected and distributed resources, and a continued shift toward natural gas and renewable energy,” Johnson said.



About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at