Meredith Angwin

Energy Analyst & Author

Connecticut Legislature Holds A Hearing

On February 1, the Connecticut General Assembly sponsored the hearing  “Staring into the Storm” through their Energy Committees. The legislators wanted to know whether the New England electric grid was ready for a winter cold snap. I was the first speaker, and Gordon van Welie, CEO of ISO-NE (our grid operator) was the second speaker.  You can see the entire forum at this link.  My presentation starts at about seven minutes into the video; van Welie’s presentation starts at about 52 minutes.  The video includes many questions from the legislators.

(The graphic above is a screen shot from my presentation.)

What Does “Ready for Winter” mean?

It is always cold in the winter in New England. To determine if the grid is ready for winter, we have to start with the question: What is a cold snap? What do we have to be ready for? In an earlier presentation, Anne George, Vice President of ISO-NE, answered this question. (One of the viewgraphs from that presentation is shown below.)  She compared several winters. If we have a cold snap like the cold snap of winter 2013-14, our grid may require “all emergency procedures” to be employed. Emergency procedures can include rolling blackouts.

How the grid would do in replays of various winters

ISO-NE grid readiness for winter

Not ready

In other words, the New England grid wasn’t ready for winter. We were ready for a mild winter, but not a severe winter.  The winter that happened less than ten years ago was the “severe winter” example in the ISO-NE chart.  We are not talking about a “100-year storm” here. Luckily, this winter has not been as bad.

Perhaps the earlier ISO-NE presentation led to the legislators to decide to hold this forum.

Shorting at the Forum

At the forum, Senator Needleman introduced me. He praised the insights and readability of Shorting the Grid. (A huge thank-you to Senator Needleman.)  I also noticed that many of the questions (especially for van Welie) were based on topics I covered extensively in Shorting.  For example, the issue of transparency. As van Welie explained,  ISO-NE is not strictly speaking a regulatory body.  Therefore, it does not have to open its meetings to the public.   On the other hand, as van Welie said, FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) is a regulatory body.  Therefore, FERC holds many public meetings and asks for written comments on proposed rulings.  FERC also has an extensive on-line presence.

My personal comment on this is the Russian saying that “God is too high, and the Czar is too far.”  In other words, there is no source of help that a mere peasant can count on. Similarly, people in New England are closed out of ISO-NE meetings, and can only access FERC meetings. FERC is located in Washington D.C.  In my opinion, ISO-NE is actually a regulatory agency, since it keeps the “queue” of new plants that want to join the grid, and it files for FERC approval of payment methods and so forth.  And, also in my opinion, Washington D.C. is too far away for decisions on many local issues.  I covered this topic in an earlier blog post: Reliable Electricity in Winter? FERC, Are You Listening?

However, I was very happy to see that several of the legislators had read Shorting! When I wrote it, I hoped that reading it would lead to a more robust grid, and to more transparency on the grid.  I feel the book is beginning to accomplish some of things things that I had hoped for.

Helping your legislators

If you would like me to speak to your local legislators, please contact me at

Shorting is available through Amazon, and at your local bookstore. If you buy it locally, you will have to ask your local bookstore to order it, but they should be able to get it easily through Ingram Spark.