Are Mainers Ready for Rolling Blackouts This Winter?
Excuse me, what?
After dealing with all things COVID over the past couple of years or so do we really need any more misfortune? Of course, the answer to that question would be a resounding no, but it looks like there’s at least a chance that there may be more to come. This time it concerns our electrical service.
What are rolling blackouts?
When a region’s power supply dips for one reason or another, the Independent System Operator, or in our area’s case, ISO New England, would determine that there must be a load reduction in order to keep the system up and running.
In places like California, this situation has resulted in planned power outages, or rolling blackouts, where electricity to "blocks", or areas, is shut off for a period of time. When electrical service is returned to an area, another area will then go dark, and so on, until an ample supply of electricity can be provided once again to the entire service area.
Why the threat of rolling blackouts in Maine and New England?
According to the Associated Press, much of New England’s power is produced by the burning of natural gas, and right now its supply is "less than normal." Natural gas is also just like almost everything else nowadays as well -- susceptible to supply chain disruptions. Another factor is that the price of natural gas is much higher in Europe, and suppliers are selling it there to increase their profits.
It was recently announced by the Maine PUC that the average electric bill will be increasing for Versant and CMP customers here in Maine by about $30 per month, and the high price of natural gas is to blame.
Currently, the price of natural gas is about 50% higher than this time last year.
"Although it’s not uncommon for ISO-NE to suggest there may be a need to reduce consumption during peak periods, market conditions this year have perhaps contributed to a heightened concern," Maine PUC spokesperson Susan Faloon told the Associated Press.
So, what are the chances of rolling blackouts in Maine this winter?
Both the lack of availability and the high price of natural gas along with severe weather could push an already strained New England power grid past the tipping point, but the good news is that government agencies like NOAA are predicting somewhat of a mild winter.
Here’s hoping that old man winter is weaker than usual and that the juice stays on. But just in case, have an extra cord of wood in the yard and a few gallons of gas for the generator standing by.