This past winter in New England was several degrees warmer than usual (details depend on where exactly you are) and only had one real cold snap, which was terrible from the point of view of outdoor sports, wildlife and anybody with any sense. On the other hand, we needed to use less electricity for heating.

Well, sort of.

ISO-New England’s Winter recap (read the release here) notes that New England used slightly (1.5%) more electricity this winter (Dec. through Feb.) than last – 30,401 GWh vs. 29.958 GWh. That’s right, more.

But importantly, the peak usage – the amount of electricity used during the 5-minute period when usage hit its maximum – was really low, just 18,431 MW. That’s the lowest peak since the winter of 1986/7, and think about how many more power-using people and buildings and industries have been added to New England in 38 years!

Peak usage is important when it comes to the cost of electricity because it drives construction of power-producing machinery, which we ratepayers have to pay for, and often drives up the incidental price of fuel because everybody needs it at once. Also, through the complexity of utility markets, peak rates often drives the price of all power.

Net result on electric costs from a warm winter, says ISO-NE:

The cost of wholesale electricity decreased significantly year over year in the region. The wholesale energy market was valued at $1.6 billion in the winter of 2023/2024, down from the previous year’s $2.6 billion and $3.7 billion the year before.That drop was in line with a 46% decline in the price of natural gas, from $8.93 per million British thermal units last winter to $4.82 this winter. Natural gas is the predominant energy fuel in New England.

For the winter, real-time wholesale electricity prices averaged $44.39 per megawatt-hour (MWh). That’s down 43.5% from $79.53 for the winter of 2022/2023.

Let’s hope this shows up in retail electric rates.

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