America’s Power Grid Is Showing Signs of Strain During Brutal Cold

America’s power grid is starting to show signs of fatigue as the nation grapples with a record-breaking cold snap. Some power plants in New England that have been burning oil are running short on fuel, according to Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO New England Inc., the region’s grid operator. Restrictions governing air emissions are also a factor limiting their use.


“As oil inventories are depleted, replenishment of these fuels will be important given the uncertainty around weather and future fuel demands for the remaining two months of the winter period,” she said by email on Tuesday. Oil, a scant contributor to the nation’s power supply in normal weather conditions, has accounted for about 30 percent of New England’s electricity in recent days after temperatures plunged below freezing. A lack of pipeline capacity has constrained natural gas supplies to the region in recent years, causing prices to surge during severe cold snaps.

Two power generators said on Tuesday that they’ve been able to overcome challenges posed by the weather. American Electric Power Co. has “been able to respond to demand as needed,” despite “equipment challenges that typically accompany very cold temperatures,” Melissa McHenry, a company spokeswoman, said in an email.

“With few exceptions, our plants are running well,” David Byford, a spokesman for Houston-based Dynegy Inc. said in an interview.

Sources: Bloomberg with assistance by Tim Loh, and Chris Martin