It may not be a true polar vortex, but as far as the independent system operator that runs the New England power grid is concerned – it might as well be.

ISO New England, as it did during the true polar vortex two weeks ago, has posted power alerts system-wide since last night. It essentially means all-hands-on-deck. Power generators that feed the grid must be available – no routine maintenance or testing allowed.

And as happened two weeks ago, natural gas prices are running high as some of the natural gas is being diverted for heat. And once again the region’s plants are burning a whole lot of oil and coal.

Oil is accounting for more than 20 percent of the generation Wednesday. Normally it averages less than one percent. Coal has been running about seven percent of the fuel mix. Normally it averages about three percent.

And as of early afternoon, power demand was running above the predicted demand for the day, with peak power period still several hours away.

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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