Less juice, but region's electricity should be OK.

AuthorEckelbecker, Lisa

Byline: Lisa Eckelbecker

New England will produce less electricity this summer but should have enough power to meet peak demand from homes and businesses when hot weather gets air conditioners humming, according to the organization that coordinates electrical grid operations.

ISO New England Inc. expects power demand will top out at 26,710 megawatts per hour this summer under normal warm-weather conditions. A prolonged heat wave could push demand as high as 29,066 megawatts per hour, ISO reported last week.

The shuttering of a Vermont nuclear power plant last year reduced power on the regional grid, but contracts signed in recent years with other power plants are due to provide about 29,575 megawatts of electricity per hour this summer, the grid coordinator forecast. ISO said it could also import more power from New York and Canadian grids, if needed.

"The margin of cushion this summer over the peak period is smaller than last year because we did lose a very large nuclear plant, but even given that, our analysis has shown we're still expecting to have enough generation available to serve the peak demand,'' ISO spokeswoman Lacey P. Girard said last week.

The ISO forecast arrives as many consumers are recovering from a cold winter and high electricity bills.

Waltham-based National Grid, the dominant electricity provider in the Worcester area, dropped its basic service charge to 9 cents per kilowatt hour from 16 cents per kilowatt hour last week. The lower rate, which is still about 1 cent higher than the rate at the same time last year, is scheduled to remain in place through October.

National Grid reported the typical household's electricity bill should drop about 26 percent, or about $32 per month. The utility continues to offer a number of energy conservation programs to customers as a way to cut strain on the grid.

"When people are reducing energy use, that obviously helps the whole region if we can cut back on the peak demand,'' said spokesman Jake Navarro.

Yet the lower rates and ISO's summer forecast have done nothing to change an ongoing debate over whether New England needs more power. Electricity use always peaks in New England during the summer, and about 44 percent of the region's electrical generation comes from plants fired by...

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