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New England's electric grid operator says it's ready for summer, but severe heat could prompt calls for conservation

Annie Ropeik

New England’s grid operator, ISO New England, says the electricity system should hold up this summer under typical weather conditions.

But if we see more extreme heat, like an extended heat wave, they may need to ask residents and businesses to voluntarily conserve energy. They could also import power from neighboring regions or draw on power reserves.

In a severe event, the grid operator could call for controlled power outages. As climate change makes weather more unpredictable, system operators may need to resort to those kinds of actions more often, they said.

Summer is the season of peak demand for electricity in New England, as homes across the state fire up air conditioners. And this summer is expected to be warmer than normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

ISO New England’s summer forecasts include increased amounts of solar power, like rooftop panels on homes, which help to balance the grid. Those panels produce the most power in the early afternoon and have pushed the peak hour of demand into the early evening, when the sun is lower in the sky.

Energy efficiency measures, like updated appliances and lighting, are also helping to reduce demand.

Under typical conditions, New England’s electricity demand is projected to reach 24,605 megawatts, rising to 26,421 megawatts under above average summer weather. The region’s grid operator says they expect more than 30,000 megawatts of capacity to be available for the region’s electricity customers.

Last summer, demand peaked on Aug. 4, 2022, at 24,780 megawatts.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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