Power outages in the RI this winter? Clean energy advocates say they’ve heard these warnings before.

‘It’s a climate solution and a power reliability issue,’ added Cunningham, who said there was ‘never’ a power outage in the area since the power grid was run. by ISO New England. “ISO New England falls on both.”

This year’s back and forth between ISO New England and clean energy and climate activists began towards the end of August when ISO New England said several steps should be taken to “ensure energy adequacy in New England”. England throughout the clean energy transition”. This includes securing and stabilizing the supply chain for imported liquefied natural gas, in addition to accelerating the development of clean energy resources. ISO, a non-profit organization, says old fossil fuel power plants are being retired faster than new clean energy projects are being developed and completed.

“Until the region has fully transitioned to alternative fuel sources to provide this long-term balancing service, we must preserve our existing gas infrastructure,” said Gordon van Welie, President and CEO of ‘ISO New England, in the company’s August 29 statement.

Cunningham said ISO New England says the region needs to increase its natural gas supply every year, which doesn’t work alongside state climate policies. “Their retreat…is part of the problem,” he said.

Every state in New England, other than New Hampshire, has climate laws that require states to reduce their carbon emissions over time. Rhode Island became the first state to require 100% of the state’s electricity to be offset by renewable energy by 2033 when it passed climate law earlier this year. Massachusetts and Connecticut have had similar laws in place for 14 years.

Darrèll Brown, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation in Rhode Island, wrote in a comment in The Journal of Providence Monday, which ISO New England’s van Welie has been saying since 2005 that “we could be freezing in the dark because we don’t have enough natural gas or power plants to keep the lights on every winter.”

“The ISO is using this mythical threat not only to push for increased use of fossil fuels, but also to throw roadblocks at what we need most – more clean energy,” Brown continued. Brown wrote that van Welie asserts that green energy infrastructure would “take too long to build”.

“But he’s been making that claim for 17 years — a time when ISO could and should have made real progress bringing green power into the grid,” Brown wrote.

Rhode Island has developed a thoughtful climate policy, Cunningham said, and the state should look forward “to what follows and what it can do to meet its climate goals.”

“Their relationship with ISO New England is part of that,” Cunningham said. “But the ISO continues to cry wolf around these blackouts and do nothing about it.”

When asked what a power outage could mean during prolonged freezing temperatures in New England, Cunningham said the effects could be “catastrophic” for safety, public health and the economy. On September 8, the five commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held a day-long meeting in Burlington, Vermont, to discuss the issue. New England has limited means to bring in natural gas, which is the dominant fuel for home heating and provides more than half of the electricity in the region, as previously reported by The Globe.

“We go into this winter crossing our fingers and hoping,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner James Danly said at the event.

Andrew Grande, spokesman for the office of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, said the city’s emergency management team is already monitoring and planning for this scenario as well as storms that could knock out power this winter, including warming centers and emergency shelters in partnership with the American Red Cross. . Local universities are considering the implications of possible power outages this winter, as area hospitals prepare to bring water tankers to the site if their generators need to run for long periods.

Rhode Island has signed contracts to boost clean energy solutions like offshore wind, but Cunningham said it shouldn’t be on the backs of individual states to completely switch from fossil-fuel power plants to renewables. It also depends on ISO New England, he said.

Matt Kakley, a spokesperson for ISO New England, told The Globe on Wednesday that their preliminary analysis indicated the region would need an “adequate supply of fuel” to meet consumer demand in “mild” weather or “moderate” – which in New England, he said. , is a “fairly cold winter”.

ISO New England is in the process of developing its winter outlook, which won’t be released until later this year, but Kakley said it has forecasting tools in place to identify those conditions in advance so that measures – like calls public to conservation – can be taken.

“As has been the case for the past few years, the region could face harsh conditions in prolonged cold weather if generators do not have access to fuel,” Kakley said in an email. “If these conditions materialize, [rolling blackouts] would also affect the six New England states.

Ahead of the coldest winter months, Rhode Islanders are also bracing for electricity rates to rise nearly 50% starting Oct. 1. The price of natural gas generally rises during the winter due to increased demand. But now there is also a global supply shortage compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Rhode Island Energy spokesman Ted Kresse, increased demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Europe and Asia is also impacting prices in the United States.

Rising costs have already worried advocates, who have said it could lead to more utility cuts this winter and more homelessness. Earlier this month, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha filed a memo arguing that the state Utilities Commission should allow ratepayers to defer payments until next year and provide relief. additional.

Previous Globe reports have contributed to this report.


Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

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