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Power Shortages Loom With Shutdowns

Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1997

which may not be in the best interests of our customers and our shareholders," O'Connor said.

New England. Meanwhile, the New England Power Pool on April 30 announced that outages at four major nuclear plants, combined with strong electric-demand forecasts, could cause electric power shortages in the region this summer. An extended heat wave would compound the situation.

The unavailable plants are Maine Yankee (800 MW) and the three Millstone units (2,630 MW). NEPOOL, which is responsible for central dispatch, coordination and monitoring of all electric power generation and high-voltage transmission facilities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, predicted peak demand of 21,400 MW this summer. NEPOOL's net generating capacity for the summer, including power purchases, is 26,000 MW. A potential 3,000-MW shortage exists if known generator outages (3,430 MW) and unplanned outages (2,400 MW) are included. That scenario would force NEPOOL to implement special operating procedures to balance supply and demand.

NEPOOL and its member companies are proposing to add 450 MW of additional generating capacity through the reactivation of mothballed generators and by increasing output at selected generating stations. Utilities also will work with large customers to obtain interruptible load contracts.

According to Jim Sinclair, NEPOOL spokesperson, the possible shortages are not due to electric competition, but due to situations with the NRC at the four nuclear plants. He said there is a 50-50 chance peak exposure will occur this summer. It is a "short-term situation," Sinclair said. Referring to the increased competition in the future, he said, "[The] thinking is that the market will take care of this."

NEPOOL held a series of press conferences in various states the last week in April aimed at educating consumers. NEPOOL notified the public that it might be called on to conserve power. But Sinclair noted that, "We want to be careful not to cry wolf." The message is, "These are things we can manage," Sinclair said. He pointed out that NEPOOL has educated the media and customers, moved up maintenance schedules at the Seabrook nuclear plant so it would be on line by the end of June and worked closely with Hydro Quebec, New Brunswick and the New York Power Pool on contingency plans. The New York pool is not as tight as NEPOOL, which Sinclair said adds some comfort, but the access points for power transfers have limits. "The only thing we cannot manage is the weather," Sinclair observed.

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