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New England power plant closings pinching supply

The retirement of several power plants in New England is reducing power supply and driving up prices, the region’s electric grid operator warned yesterday.

A regional auction to buy power for 2017 and 2018 in so-called capacity markets – comparable to an insurance policy that ensures power is available in the future – ended with a shortfall in megawatts for electricity used by businesses and homes, ISO-New England said.

In the auction that ended Monday, ISO secured a commitment of 33,700 megawatts, off from 33,855 megawatts of capacity required. One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.

The deficit in megawatts available is a first for New England, which has had a surplus in megawatt capacity since the forward capacity market was established in 2006.

“The region abruptly went from a capacity surplus and low prices in previous auctions to a capacity shortfall and relatively high prices,” said Gordon van Welie, ISO New England’s president and chief executive officer.

Major oil, coal and nuclear power plants to be retired by June 1, 2017, include Brayton Point and Salem Harbor in Massachusetts and Vermont Yankee in Vermont. NRG Energy Inc. shut oil-fired Norwalk Harbor in Connecticut last year. The plants account for nearly 10 percent of New England’s capacity. Another 600 megawatts will go offline as other retirements take effect, ISO said.

Auctions in the next three years are expected to close the gap between demand and supply, ISO said. But the “slim capacity margin” and resulting higher prices are a clear signal that New England needs more power generation and more efforts reducing demand, van Welie said.

New England will pay much more for the capacity market, one of three energy markets in the region. The cost for 2017-2018 is about $3.05 billion, compared with about $1.06 billion in 2013 and $1.77 billion in 2009.

It’s too early to know what the impact will be on customers, ISO spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg said. The retail price will rise, but it’s a small share of the total wholesale portion of the retail bill, she said.

Seth Kaplan, vice president for policy and climate advocacy at the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston environmental group, said aging power plants are part of a “zombie fleet.”

With the rising use of natural gas, developers are proposing more gas-fired plants, he said. Wind, hydropower and solar projects also are key components of diverse energy markets, he said.

The deficit in available megawatts and price spike are “signals to the financial community and policymakers. . . . You need to build some stuff,” Kaplan said.

Entergy Corp. will shut the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station this year, ending a battle with the state since 2010 when the Vermont Senate voted against a measure that would have authorized granting Vermont Yankee a permit to operate for an additional 20 years. Lawmakers were concerned about the plant’s safety, age and other issues.

Coal’s decreasing competitiveness prompted Dominion in 2011 to ask for permission to shut the 60-year-old coal- and oil-fired Salem Harbor Power Station. And the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts – cited as a heavy polluter – is set to be retired in May 2017.

NRG shut the Connecticut plant last June, saying it was not economic to keep it running.

Legacy Comments4 - The article makes several interesting points. The viability of solar power even at northern latitudes. The continued falling cost of solar technology. The fact that solar beat natural gas in a competitive bidding process without any state solar subsidies that forced energy companies to compete on price in order to benefit ratepayers. They plan to build 20 large solar arrays across their service area for 250 Million - about half of what the obsolete before complete scrubber on the 50+ year old Bow coal plant cost. Which would you rather be paying for? -and breathing? - New England Clean Power Link The New England Clean Power Link is a proposed 1,000 MW High Voltage direct current (HVdc) underwater and underground transmission line that will bring clean, low-cost energy from the U.S.-Canadian border to Vermont and the New England marketplace. Once completed, the project will lower costs for consumers, reduce environmental emissions, create jobs, increase tax revenues, and diversify fuel supply in New England, all while respecting Vermont’s natural beauty by burying the lines. If approved after extensive federal, state and local environmental review, the project will run two six-inch-wide cables an estimated 150 miles, all in Vermont. Approximately 100 miles are proposed to be buried under Lake Champlain and the balance buried underground in existing rights-of-way. The line will end at a converter station to be built at a location in Ludlow, Vermont and connect into the VELCO transmission grid to serve Vermont and the broader New England market. The $1.2 billion merchant line will be privately financed and will not use taxpayer dollars. The developers of the Clean Power Link are also developing the Champlain Hudson Power Express project.

We need Northern Pass, we need wind, we need nuclear, and we need coal. Obviously, with the shortages and price spikes of natural gas, it isn't the only answer. If we come to the point of rationing power, start by unplugging anyone with a "Stop Northern Pass" sign first. What we really need is to get rid of this clueless administration and get someone with some common sense. If anyone does try to build anything, the Conservation Law Foundation will be first in line to prevent it. Ask them where they stand on Northern Pass and wind.

activists clearly stated that the power to be provide by Northern Pass was not needed. Turns out that all along they were just visual purists

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