The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) last week issued its 2005 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. The report assesses long-term electricity supply and demand and transmission reliability in North America through 2014, and discusses key issues and trends affecting the reliability of future electric supplies and transmission systems.

“Resources are expected to be adequate to meet customer demand throughout North America over the next five years, provided new generating facilities are constructed as anticipated and NERC reliability rules are followed,” said Michehl R. Gent, NERC president and CEO. “Hurricane Katrina has dealt a terrible blow to the people and infrastructure of the Gulf States, and utilities in the region are struggling to assess the damage and restore service. NERC will assess any reliability impacts resulting from damage to equipment and fuel supply interruptions as part of its upcoming winter assessment,” Gent added.

According to the report, electricity demand is expected to grow by about 69,500 MW between 2005 and 2009. Projected resource additions over this same period total about 49,000 MW, depending upon the number of merchant plants assumed to be in service. Resource adequacy in the longer term is more uncertain. More than 12,400 miles of new transmission are proposed to be added over the 2005–2014 time frame. This represents a 5.9% increase in the total amount of installed transmission over the assessment time frame.

Although the transmission system is expected to operate reliably throughout North America, some portions of the grid will not be able to support all desired electricity market transactions. Some well-known transmission constraints are recurring, while new constraints appear as electricity flow patterns change. As customer demand increases and transmission systems carry increased power flows, portions of these systems will be operated at or near their reliability limits more of the time. Reliability coordinators, transmission planners, and system operators will need to regularly communicate and coordinate their actions to preserve the reliability of the transmission system.

Most NERC regions do not anticipate any problems with fuel supplies for the assessment period. However, the industry’s growing dependence upon natural gas as a primary fuel for new power plants is an emerging area of concern. The ten-year assessment is available at: www.nerc.com/~filez/rasreports.html.