Power usage on the New England grid leveled off a bit Wednesday as temperatures began to slowly rise. But prices were still running high – more than $300 a megawatt hour at times – as the Independent System Operator that manages the grid, ISO New England, continued to use more expensive oil- and coal-fired generation.

Their use, beginning with the first cold snap late last week and again Tuesday, has been the result of the lack of gas lines in the region. They are at capacity so when the weather is cold, more of that gas goes for heating. That leaves less for power generation, so the ISO turns to coal and oil plants.

Coal and oil together typically account for less than 4 percent of the fuel mix the ISO has on the grid. On Wednesday, they again accounted for about 30 percent. Natural gas, usually more than 50 percent of the mix, was at less than 30 percent.

Peak demand today was predicted to be 21,060 megawatts. Yesterday’s peak demand had been predicted to hit 20,700 megawatts, but actual demand far exceeded that.

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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