North America has enough power for peak summer demand: NERC

Reuters News
Posted: May 15, 2015 9:43 AM

(Reuters) - North America has enough power supplies to meet expected demand summer when air conditioning causes usage to peak, the group responsible for overseeing the reliability of the region's electric grid said Friday.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) however said utilities would have to overcome the ongoing transformation of the generation mix from coal to natural gas and renewables and the severe drought in California.

Although California's drought will significantly reduce hydro power supply, NERC said the state will have enough power due to significant renewable generation additions, sufficient imports, and moderate peak demand growth.

In its summer assessment, NERC also pointed to concerns in New England where more gas infrastructure is needed as the region increases its reliance on gas to fuel its power generators.

NERC said ongoing gas infrastructure expansion and outages in New England were not expected to compromise reliability over the summer.

NERC said all regions "appear to have sufficient resources to meet peak summer demand with some areas, such as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, continuing to see improved reserved margins."

For years, NERC has worried ERCOT's reserve margins could fall to levels that might impact reliability as generators in Texas had a tough time keeping up with the state's fast growing demand for more power.

"The transformation of North America's resource mix presents

a unique set of challenges," John Moura, NERC director of Reliability Assessments, said in a release.

"NERC continues to monitor key measures of essential reliability services to provide greater insight on how this trend is impacting reliability," he said.

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Coal and older oil and gas generation retirements continue to occur, partially offset by new gas-fired generation, as well as large increases in wind and solar generation.

Gas-fired units will make up about 40 percent of the generation base, an increase of 28 percent from five years ago, NERC said.

Overall, NERC said the amount of generation expected to be available this summer was down from last summer with 1,040 gigawatts of prospective generation available this summer versus 1,043 GW last summer.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by W Simon)