(Bloomberg) -- The US northeast may be asked to cut back on electricity usage if there’s an extreme cold snap this winter, as the grid operator faces tight fuel supplies.

ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, warned it could ask residents and businesses to curtail demand during a long cold spell or back-to-back shorter ones, according to a statement Monday. The aim is to reduce stress on the power system this winter amid concern that stored fuels, such as natural gas, could be drawn down quicker than they can be replenished, the operator said.

ISO New England said it doesn’t expect to call for controlled power outages and would resort to that “drastic step only to prevent a collapse of the power system that would take days or weeks to repair,” according to the statement. The grid, which spans states including Connecticut and Maine, has adequate power supply to meet demand during mild and moderate weather, when temperatures hover near 10 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Electricity is the primary heating source for about 1 in 6 New England households, US Energy Information Administration data show.

While blackouts appear unlikely, ISO New England says periods of high consumer usage could sap reserve energy supplies. The US is expected to see a warmer-than-average winter, but bouts of extreme cold “can wreak havoc,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick said in an October briefing. Strained natural gas supplies are a primary concern and ISO New England says it has tools in place to identify any fuel or power supply issues early. 

The operator expects peak demand this winter to increase 1.3% from last year to 20,009 megawatts under normal conditions. Electricity usage would climb to 20,695 megawatts in below-average temperatures of 5 degrees. Neither scenario would touch the usage record set in 2004, when severe snow storms and freezing conditions slammed the region. 

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