Sunday, November 7, 2010

Without Vermont Yankee, ISO NE Predicts Possible Transmission Line Melting

The Auction and the Melting Transmission Lines

Since it is not clear that Vermont Yankee will be operating in 2013, I found this announcement strange. The grid operator (ISO-NE) won't let Vermont Yankee drop out of an auction? Huh? The news appeared and disappeared in local newspapers with the speed of a greased pig escaping its captors. Now you have it, now you don't. Where did it go?

Yesterday, ISO-NE explained the situation more clearly. "Melting transmission lines" is more understandable than the statement: "Vermont Yankee must stay in the forward power auction."

ISO-NE Talks About Reliability

The computer simulated assessment from the Independent System Operator (ISO) New England reports Vermont and New York could face overloads -- defined as more electricity flowing through the system's equipment than it can handle, which could lead to the lines heating up, sagging, possibly melting and eventually shutting down -- in the system if the nuclear facility goes out of service once its license expires in roughly 17 months.....

The head of VELCO, a Vermont transmission utility, doesn't see Vermont as having a problem, but he does see New Hampshire as possibly affected:

Chris Dutton, CEO of Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc. (VELCO), said problems within the state would likely revolve around low voltage issues -- such problems are likely resolvable with minor equipment modifications in different substations.
"In New Hampshire, however, it appears the situation is more acute and that there will actually be lines that overload if Vermont Yankee is not relicensed," he said.

Dutton then talks about N minus one reliability criteria a bit, but I didn't find the article particularly easy to follow on this point. Also, ISO says there will be a problem in Vermont, but Dutton thinks it will be a problem in New Hampshire, not Vermont. I think more clarity is still in order.

The Energy Education Project Presentation

In the first meeting of the Energy Education Project, I gave a presentation on grid reliability and electricity pricing. I include a short YouTube of the reliability section of the talk.

Despite the disagreement about what state will get creamed, the bottom line is very simple. Local grid reliability requires Vermont Yankee.


Anonymous said...

I wonder, I got to thinking about this. It seems to me that, at least *theoretically*, since this is a bit of a matter of Interstate Commerce, that the Federal Government would have the Constitutional Authority, if it chose, to step in and pre-empt the State of Vermont, and say that Vermont can't shut down Vermont Yankee?

It's complicated discussion. I guess the Interstate Commerce clause doesn't give Congress and the Executive Branch unlimited authority over business. I suppose the counter argument is that Vermont Yankee is a particular facility operating solely inside of the State, even if it sells power outside the State, so the State has the Constitutional power to say that the business is not allowed to operate in Vermont.

Would be a very interesting political cycle to see how things were decided if the Federal Government did decide to try to pre-empt the shutdown of VY.

Honestly, however, I hope that Meredith and the supporters of Nuclear power in Vermont can just convince the state to re-license the plant, so it's a moot point.

Meredith Angwin said...

Thanks Jeff. I don't think the federal government can order the plant into continued operation because of interstate commerce. However, the federal government DOES have the sole right to regulate nuclear safety. If the plant is shut down because the Vermont legislature says it is not safe there may well be a federal override of that. Safety decisions are a federal prerogative for nuclear, and the federal government could pre-empt of the state legislature's ruling on safety.

I agree with you, and hope we can convince the state to relicense the plant. That would be the best outcome.