We can’t really say it snuck up on us, but New England’s electricity infrastructure is already prone to supply interruptions and price spikes, and getting more so. And so far the steps to counter the problem have been very limited.There’s a new warning from the non-profit company that operates the six-state grid, the Independent System Operator – New England (ISO-NE). One easy work-around – building gas plants that can run on oil in a pinch – is getting harder to use, because of air pollution rules, according to the head of the organization, Gordon van Welie, president and chief executive. His warning came in ISO-NE’s annual update on the state of the region’s electric grid.The result is a loss of energy diversity that threatens the stability of supply and price, according to van Welie, who spoke to reporters on Jan. 30. Among the elements in this unhealthy trend are the premature closings of two nuclear reactors, Vermont Yankee, in December, 2014, and Pilgrim, in Plymouth, Mass., which is scheduled to close in 2019.Combined with the closing of some coal-fired plants, the system is tilting more and more heavily towards gas, which has already caused major price spikes in periods of cold weather, when the gas is used for heating homes and businesses. According to van Welie, “Inadequate fuel infrastructure, particularly natural gas infrastructure to serve New England’s growing fleet of natural gas-fired power plants, is a current, and growing, reliability risk.’’Millstone Power StationIn this context, the future of the Millstone Power Station takes on new significance. Generators don’t get paid for contributing to the healthy diversity of the system, but the New England system is more likely to run into trouble because of its reduced diversity, and part of Millstone’s value is that it doesn’t need pipelines or coal trains.

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