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ISO New England Inc., the operator of the regional power system and wholesale electricity markets, has released the 2013 Regional System Plan, a comprehensive report that outlines transmission upgrades and market responses, such as generation or demand response, that can address identified power grid reliability needs.

The ISO notes that the report is the culmination of a yearlong process with industry representatives and other stakeholders to analyze power system needs and solutions over a 10-year planning horizon.

According to the ISO, from 2002 through June of this year, 475 transmission projects - representing a $5.5 billion investment in new infrastructure - were put into service to address reliability needs in all six New England states.

In addition, the ISO says that since 1997, nearly 14,900 MW of new generation has been constructed in New England while approximately 3,360 MW of less efficient, primarily older resources has retired. Currently, about 1,850 MW of demand resources (both demand response and energy efficiency measures) are part of New England's resource mix, the system operator notes.

Additional transmission upgrades to meet reliability requirements are under construction, have been approved or are being designed, the ISO reports. Some of the larger projects underway include the New England East-West Solution, which comprises major transmission upgrades in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island; the Maine Power Reliability Program; and transmission system upgrades in southeastern Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area. The ISO adds that approximately $5.7 billion in transmission investment for reliability purposes is planned for the next five years.

With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Order 1000 requiring changes to the transmission planning processes in New England, the ISO says it has filed an inter-regional planning proposal that builds on existing processes with neighboring power systems. The ISO is scheduled to file a plan for implementing the order's regional requirements with FERC by Nov. 15.

The ISO reports that energy consumption, unadjusted for energy efficiency programs, is projected to grow an average of 1.1% annually through 2022, while summer peak demand is expected to grow by 1.4% per year. When the effects of energy efficiency are included, the forecast shows essentially no long-run growth in electric energy use and 0.9% annual growth in summer peak demand.

The predominant reliability challenges include New England's reliance on natural gas for power generation, the potential retirements of older fossil fuel-fired generation and interconnection of increasing levels of renewable resources, the system operator notes. Changes to operating procedures and market rules are under way to address these challenges and include the following measures:

- Day-ahead energy market time shift (implemented). This more closely aligns the timelines of the day-ahead energy market and natural gas trading day, giving generators more time to make fuel and transportation arrangements and giving ISO system operators more time to commit long-lead-time generators when needed.

- Tightening the shortage-event trigger (implemented). The definition of a "shortage event" was modified to more accurately reflect stressed system conditions.

- Winter reliability program (approved by FERC; implementation Dec. 1). This is an interim, stopgap solution to help ensure power system reliability in the event of colder-than-normal weather during the coming winter season.

- Energy market supply offer flexibility (approved by FERC; implementation December 2014). This will allow generators to change their power supply offers during the operating day to reflect changes in actual fuel prices, helping generators better adjust to short-term fuel arrangements or high, real-time fuel prices.

- FCM performance initiatives (under stakeholder discussion; FERC filing expected late this year). This is a proposal for a more robust incentive structure that would reward resources that overperform during times of system stress by transferring payments from resources that underperform during these periods.

- Operating reserves (operational change implemented). The ISO increased the 10-minute operating-reserve requirement by 25% to address its concern about the performance of resources and ensure the region has adequate reserves available to recover from unplanned outages.

The ISO reports that in 2012, 52% of the electricity generated in New England was produced by natural gas-fired power plants, while oil units produced less than 1%, and coal plants generated about 3%. Nuclear produced approximately 31%, hydro and pumped storage produced 7%, and renewable energy resources produced 7% of the electricity generated in the region.

As the amount of wind power in New England continues to grow, the ISO says it is on track to implement a wind power forecast for use in daily system operations late this year. The ISO is also considering changes to its generator interconnection study process, including analyzing a wider range of operating conditions than are currently required, as well as identifying elective upgrades to the transmission system in the remote areas where most wind farms are built.

In addition, the ISO notes that growth in solar power and other distributed generation (DG) resources is rapidly expanding in New England. The system operator anticipates that more than 2,000 MW of DG, mostly photovoltaic resources, will be installed region-wide by the end of 2021, up from about 250 MW of photovoltaic resources at the end of 2012.

To address the potential effects of high levels of DG on grid reliability, the ISO recently convened a Distributed Generation Forecast Working Group that will gather information about DG resources in New England and eventually develop a forecast of future DG growth to be incorporated into the long-term planning process.

In June, the ISO, in partnership with several New England transmission owners, says it completed the installation of 40 synchrophasors on the high-voltage transmission system throughout the region. These synchrophasors are now streaming data to the ISO and transmission owners, which are using the data to analyze system disturbances and develop tools for system operators. The project was funded by a 2009 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the ISO notes.

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