Grid Operator Warns of Winter Power Outages

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If New England has a prolonged cold snap this winter, the operator of the electric grid warned they may have to shut off the power to homes and businesses.

“NOAA is predicting better than average temperatures so things are looking good for this winter, if it’s a mild season we should be fine,” ISO New England President and CEO Gordon Van Welie said. 

That’s what Van Welie told the New England Regional Council Thursday.

“But it doesn’t eliminate this risk that we could get a prolonged cold snap. We’re watching very closely what’s happening with the polar vortex,” Van Welie said. 

Last February the polar vortex caused Texans to lose power for several days.

“If we have a winter like we had last year, winter of 2021, it will be fine,” Van Welie said. 

“If we’re lucky is not an answer and ‘we should be ok’ is not an answer,” said Rep. David Arconti, of Danbury. 

Arconti, who co-chairs the Energy and Technology Committee, says his meeting with Van Welie on Monday was frustrating because there didn’t seem to be a solution.

“Us just sitting by and praying for a warmer winter is not something we want to do,” Acronti said. 

Arconti says they’re talking with the governor’s office about what type of preventative measures they can take or what leverage they have with ISO New England.

“When our grid operator says we could be in a precarious position this winter if there’s an extended cold snap that’s very concerning to me,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. 

Dykes says Connecticut has done its part by keeping the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant from closing.

“It is not acceptable to have our families and businesses in this state exposed to the possibility of a blackout or a brownout if we have an extended cold weather period,” Dykes said. 

She said the path out of this is diversifying the fuel options and lessening the grid's dependence on natural gas. 

“They’re responsible for planning the New England grid and ensuring that there’s investment in the resources we need to maintain reliability,” Dykes said.  "The path out of this is to have a market that is driving investment in diverse and clean resources that can lessen our dependence on natural gas.” 

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