Winter is coming! As the reliance on natural gas continues to increase, strain is being placed on existing natural gas supply and infrastructure to ensure that the lights – and heat – will be kept on during the winter.
Grid operators say enhanced coordination and upgraded operational tools are key in keeping gas-fired plants online
Grid officials and market watchers tell federal officials they expect to reliably meet winter demand this coming season, though some challenges remain, the weather is unknowable and areas with limited natural gas capacity could struggle.
In California, gas shortages due to the Aliso Canyon leak will affect dozens of plants and more than 20 GW of capacity. For New England, which gets almost half its power from gas generators, the grid operator can marshal up to 10% of its capacity in the form of demand response and alternative generation. New York and adjacent markets have worked to better coordinate scheduling, and PJM will implement its enhanced capacity performance product, with stricter generator penalties.
On whole, gas prices are expected to be higher. And given weak heating demand during the last mild winter, gas consumption is expected to rise. Much of this is cyclical — lower gas prices resulted in lower production — but the market also has plentiful storage, the possibility to import liquefied natural gas, and a better-connected pipeline network, to help it cope.
The weather is generally expected to be average, which will lead to a bump in consumption after warm weather a year ago. Total gas demand could be 5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) more than last year, which will elevate prices. But the electric generation sector could actually see a 2 Bcf/d decrease in gas demand, with less fuel switching taking place due to higher prices.
Organized markets from New England to California recently presented to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission their plans for meeting demand this summer, each taking unique steps. Combined with a strong natural gas supply base and new coordination strategies, here’s a glimpse at the challenges five of them face in keeping the lights on.
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