The reliability of electricity generation this winter was the first issue on the agenda at the December 15 meeting of the Peabody Municipal Light Commission.
PMLP Director Joe Anastasi shared a December 5 press release from ISO-New England that warned rolling black outs may result this winter and credited the “premature closing of peaker plants” as one of the reasons supply is questioned.
The report came after several speakers at the DEP hearing in Peabody on December 7 called for a timeline to close both of PMLP’s aging gas-and-oil burning generators, “peakers,” at the Waters River Station on Pulaski Street.
Commissioner Ray Melvin said he hopes black outs don’t happen but they are a real possibility and referred to the previous winter weather crisis in Texas. “A peaker plant can be your friend in that instance,” a commissioner quipped.
Last winter, ISO-NE released a graphic report outlining three specific scenarios as a way of communicating about the risk of outages. “ISO-NE started issuing this kind of winter weather alert after the winter crisis in Texas that resulted in major grid outages,” said Melissa Birchard, Senior Regulatory Attorney at the Acadia Center. “ISO has received a number of criticisms for this particular communication approach. Some people say that ISO-NE has a tendency to cry wolf when there is no real threat.”
ISO-NE recently recommended no additional fuel program for Winter 2022/23. “The ISO expects to be able to operate through a mild winter reliably and through a moderate winter reliably, but may rely on established capacity deficiency procedures.”
Rather than running peaker plants, Massachusetts Climate Action Network and other organizations recommend adding renewable and energy storage options.