The transition to a highly electrified, 100% renewable future will pose new challenges and present new opportunities for grid reliability and resilience. Presenters Sarah Adams (ISO-NE), Terron Hill (National Grid), Kerrick Johnson (VELCO), and Rebecca Towne (Vermont Electric Coop) shared regional, state, and local perspectives on the future of the grid in the REV2023 panel Energy Resilience and the Grid, moderated by Josh Bagnato.
Throughout the panel discussion, one thing was abundantly clear: dramatic changes in when and how we use and generate electricity are just starting to unfold on the New England grid. ISO-New England projects that between 2022 and 2040 the region’s energy mix will see a fivefold increase in renewables and corresponding drop in natural gas. At the same time, demand will increase dramatically to meet heating and transportation loads, more than doubling by 2050.
These changes will necessitate significant investments in traditional grid infrastructure, energy storage, power flow controls, and improved real-time data collection and monitoring. Adams highlighted a 2050 ISO-NE transmission study that concluded that significant new transmission capacity and a significant number of new transformers may be required to reliably serve load. Fortunately, focusing on reducing peak loads will be an important strategy for reducing transmission upgrade costs, many incremental upgrades can be made opportunistically in the course of normal operations, and the strategic location of new generation can also significantly impact transmission needs.
Hill discussed the complementary nature of National Grid’s work creating an onshore hub to connect storage and offshore wind projects in Massachusetts and the proposed Twin States Cleaner Energy Link that would provide bi-directional transmission capacity between Quebec and New England. These kinds of projects will reduce congestion, and improve our ability to balance renewables across a larger area.
Within Vermont, VELCO is also pursuing opportunities to create a higher capacity and more interconnected transmission system that better connects to neighboring New York and Quebec. At Vermont Electric Coop, Towne’s team is focused on improving physical infrastructure – such as poles wires, and substations – embracing technologies to facilitate automation and energy storage. These investments are helping to enhance resilience even as energy usage and generation shifts.
See the panelists’ slides.