The North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) has issued a warning that over two-thirds of the U.S. and parts of Canada, collectively housing about 180 million people, are at risk of electricity shortages this winter if faced with intense cold snaps. The U.S. regions of the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and South, along with certain Canadian provinces, are identified as the most vulnerable. The reliability of natural gas-fired generation and bulk power production is at stake due to inadequate natural gas infrastructure, particularly in big areas like PJM, MISO, New York, and New England.
Grid operators including Midcontinent ISO, PJM Interconnection, SERC Reliability Corp, and ERCOT in Texas are susceptible to generator failures under frigid conditions, with the potential for gas pipelines to become restricted in regions like New England where gas infrastructure is limited. NERC’s analysis points to a growing complexity in load forecasting during winter months, stressing that underestimating demand can significantly jeopardize reliability when temperatures plummet.
A recent review of Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022 by NERC and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revealed substantial strain on both electric and gas systems across the eastern U.S., with concurrent unplanned generation losses peaking at approximately 90,500 megawatts. This event highlighted a dire need for regulatory improvements to ensure a reliable gas supply during extreme cold—a gap lawmakers have been urged to address. In one critical situation, New York City’s Consolidated Edison faced the brink of a system collapse that would have resulted in extensive restoration times amidst winter conditions.