The outlook for electric reliability in North America this winter appears good, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) in its 2009/2010 Winter Reliability Assessment. Reserve margins, including supply- and demand-side resources, are expected to exceed NERC's reference planning levels in all regions.
Demand for electricity and stress on the transmission system generally decline in North America during the winter months, primarily due to reduced air conditioning use. Much of Canada, however, experiences peak demand for electricity during the winter months due to electric heating.
The resource outlook in Canada remains positive, with resource margins expected to improve slightly to 17% this winter, up from 16% last winter.
NERC says wind resources continue to grow with nameplate capacity increasing 30% (8,000 MW) since last winter. However, wind will provide less than 1% of the total electricity generated during this winter's hour of peak demand.
Natural gas-fired generation is projected to provide roughly 30% of the electricity generated during this winter's hour of peak demand. Rising penetration of liquefied and unconventional natural gas may raise some fuel quality concerns in the future but are not expected to impact reliability this winter. NERC is actively monitoring this issue.
NERC's report goes on to say that no operational conditions are expected to significantly impact bulk power system reliability this winter. The variability of new wind resources continues to present concerns, but operational procedures are expected to be sufficient to ensure reliable operation of the system.