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Balancing Congestion

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a change in PJM’s (the Mid-Atlantic grid operator) tariff, allowing them to shift what are called “balancing congestion” costs to load serving entities.  FERC approved PJM’s tariff revision with an effective date of June 1.  Suppliers have indicated that they intend to pass through these charges.  Suppliers include a change of law or regulation provision in their agreements.  Basically, they commit to a fixed price, but allow for pass-throughs when there is a change in law or regulation.  Please email or call to discuss the potential impact of these charges to you.

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.AvalonEnergy.US, email us at info@avalonenergy.us, or call us at 888-484-8096.

Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.

Copyright 2017 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC

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Natural Gas and Electricity Are Parting Ways – Part 2

In our last article, Natural Gas and Electricity Are Parting Ways – Part 1, we explored the weakening correlation between wholesale natural gas prices and electricity prices in the Mid-Atlantic.  While natural gas prices have fallen dramatically over the past seven years, and electricity prices have fallen as well, electricity prices have not fallen as far.  We discussed how this weakening relationship is, in part, a result of natural gas-fired generating units more and more often being dispatched before coal-fired units.  In this article, we look at the influence of capacity prices.

Capacity

The cost of energy delivered by a competitive supplier consists of several elements—generation, capacity, transmission, and ancillary services.  Costs to suppliers resulting from PJM’s energy auctions are reflected in competitive suppliers’ generation charges.  Competitive suppliers are also required to own or to reserve generation capacity.  PJM runs separate capacity auctions to place a price on this capacity.  These auctions establish capacity prices for each of the three consecutive future planning years.

Polar Vortex 

During the depths of the Polar Vortex of January 2014 (see What Does Volatility Look Like?), there were times when more than 20% of generation capacity in PJM was unable to respond when dispatched by the grid operator.  The grid operator then had to call upon non-economic (meaning more costly) resources to fill in, some of which also were unable to respond.  The grid came within a few thousand megawatts of brownouts, and prices soared to more than $2,600 per megawatt hour during some hours.

Capacity Performance

Clearly more reliable generation capacity was required.  PJM proposed, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved, a change in regulation creating a new Capacity Performance product.  With Capacity Performance, PJM established new, more stringent requirements for generation regardless of weather conditions and system conditions, and also established onerous penalties in the event that generation does not respond when called.  Most generators bid their capacity again during two Transitional Auctions, for the planning years 2016/2017 and 2017/2018. As a result, due to this change in regulation, capacity prices have been reset higher for each of these two planning year periods.

The table above presents, for the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 planning years, capacity prices that were originally established as part of Base Residual Auctions (BRA) and the new prices established as part of Capacity Performance (CP) Transition Auctions.

Additional investment was clearly needed in order to improve system reliability.  PJM’s strategy with Capacity Performance is, on the one hand, to provide generators “resources to invest in improvements in such areas as dual-fuel capability, securing firmer natural gas supplies and upgrading plant equipment,” while, on the other hand, imposing substantial penalties for non-performance.

These increased costs associated with Capacity Performance, which will be reflected in electricity prices, are unassociated with changes in natural gas prices and are another driver of the decline in correlation between electricity prices and natural gas prices.

Notes:

– Evelyn Teel contributed to this article

– Capacity prices and quote from PJM website

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.AvalonEnergy.US, call us at 888-484-8096, or email us at jmcdonnell@avalonenergy.us.  Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.  Copyright 2015 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC

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Natural Gas and Electricity Are Parting Ways – Part 1

In recent articles, we have explored the dramatic decline in natural gas prices over the past seven years.  See These Are Days To Remember and 10,000 Maniacs Were Right.

In the US Mid-Atlantic, natural gas and electricity prices have, over time, tended to move together.  While there has by no means been a perfect correlation between the two, the relationship has been strong.

Over the past 15 years, the coefficient of determination (R2) has averaged about 67% (see yellow line).  In other words, over this time period, 2/3 of the change in electricity prices can be explained by changes in natural gas prices.  More recently, however, the strength of this relationship has weakened and continues to weaken further (see red line).  Electricity prices have declined but not as precipitously as those of natural gas.

Why has this relationship weakened?  Two significant drivers relate to (i) dispatch order and (ii) capacity prices.

Dispatch Order

In scheduling energy to serve electricity users, the grid operator, PJM, utilizes a least-cost dispatch model.  PJM develops an expectation of projected system load on an hourly basis and then seeks bids from generators to supply energy to serve this load.  After bids have been submitted, for each hour, PJM accepts the lowest cost offers first and then works their way through higher price offers until sufficient supply has been cleared to match the projected load.  (There are a number of system constraints and complications that must be incorporated into the process, but this pretty much captures it.)  For each hour, the price at which the last megawatt-hour (MWh) clears sets the price for all the supply offers that clear in that hour.

For many years, the last generating units cleared were generally natural gas-fired units.  As a result, it has been these natural gas units that have set the price for electricity, leading to the strong link between natural gas prices and electricity prices.  A common understanding was that “as natural gas prices go, so go electricity prices.”

But now, low natural gas prices are leading to lower and lower supply bids by natural gas-fired generators, causing them to more frequently fall down the dispatch order and clear before coal-fired units.  Because of this, coal fired units are now more often becoming the marginal, or price-setting, units.  And, as a result, falling natural gas prices have not driven down electricity prices to the extent they once would have.

In addition to procuring energy, electricity wholesale suppliers must also own or procure capacity.  In our next article, we will look at how capacity costs influence electricity prices.

Evelyn Teel contributed to this article.

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.AvalonEnergy.US, call us at 888-484-8096, or email us at jmcdonnell@avalonenergy.us.  Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.  Copyright 2015 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC

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In The News – Avalon Energy Services

Avalon Energy Services recently completed an electricity procurement project for KBS Capital Advisors’ One Washingtonian Center property in Gaithersburg, MD.  Marc Deluca, Regional President of KBS, noted that “Electricity markets have exhibited extreme volatility.  The folks at Avalon Energy Services have deep expertise and an unsurpassed understanding of the energy markets and how they work.  With their advice and counsel, we were able to successfully navigate our way to a very positive outcome. “

Click here for the full story.

Avalon Energy Services also recently became licensed by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to assist commercial, industrial and governmental natural gas customers in all of the natural gas distribution company service territories in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  These are:

  • Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
  • National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation
  • PECO Energy Company
  • Peoples TWP LLC
  • Peoples Natural Gas Company, LLC
  • Peoples Natural Gas, LLC – Equitable Division
  • Philadelphia Gas Works
  • UGI Utilities, Inc.
  • UGI-Central Penn Gas
  • UGI-Penn Natural Gas
  • Valley Energy, Inc.

Avalon Energy Services is now licensed for electricity and natural gas in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

Copyright 2014 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC

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What Does Volatility Look Like?

This article looks at how cold weather led to great volatility in real-time wholesale electricity prices during January 2014 in the PJM Interconnection (PJM).

The month of January 2014 was the coldest in decades in the US as a Polar Vortex pushed its way into the Midwest, South, and East.

Winter electricity use in the Mid-Atlantic generally exhibits a daily bi-modal pattern, with morning and evening peaks.  The graphic below shows total PJM load during the 24 hours of January 22, 2014.

Because of the exceptionally cold weather on that day, during the morning and afternoon, real-time electricity prices were elevated, averaging about $350 per megawatt-hour.  During the evening peak-demand period, as a result of the shutdown of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant’s two units, prices rose even more substantially.  The two nuclear units, located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, Maryland, together represent more than 1,700 megawatts of installed capacity.  The outage was described by the facility’s owner, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (now part of Exelon Corp), as the result of an electrical malfunction on the non-nuclear side of the plant.  Regardless of the side of the plant on which the malfunction occurred, real-time prices in the transmission-constrained Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) and Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) Zones rose dramatically, for about a five hour period, reaching $1,890.70 per megawatt-hour in the Pepco Zone and $1,896.94 per megawatt-hour in the BGE Zone.

The table below presents real-time prices in eight of the twenty PJM zones at 2050 (8:50 PM).  Real-time prices are shown in megawatt-hours ($/MWh) and kilowatt-hours ($/kWh).  A map of all of the PJM Zones is presented at the end of this article.

The grid operator, PJM, had been calling on demand response all day during January 22.  The average demand response price (Average DR Dispatch Lambda) rose to $835 per megawatt-hour at hour 1759 (5:59 PM) as shown below.

During January 23, 2014, as both the bitterly cold weather and the Calvert Cliffs outage continued, prices remained elevated, especially so in the constrained Pepco and BGE Zones.  The table below presents real-time prices in eight PJM zones at 2030 (8:30 PM).

The contour map below shows real-time prices exceeding $550/MWh across all of the PJM zones at hour 2255 (10:55 PM).

The average demand dispatch prices reached $1,000/MWh at the same time.

The following day, January 24, with the Calvert Cliffs outage continuing, real-time electricity prices exceeded $2,600/MWh in the Dominion Zone during the morning peak at 0705 (7:05 AM).  Real-time prices previously set a record of $2,450.54/MWh in the Dominion Zone on January 7, 2014.

Less than two hours later, at 0850 (8:50 AM), due to a transmission constraint, a small portion of northern central West Virginia experienced negative prices while prices on the western side of PJM continued to exceed $200/MWh and on the eastern side exceeded $600/MWh.

Real-time price volatility continued within PJM in even more dramatic ways.

At 1700 (5 PM) on January 27, real-time prices in the Pepco Zone spiked to $545.08/MWh while real-time prices in almost the entire Dominion Zone dropped below zero to minus $80.45/MWh as shown on the price contour map below.

This volatility is shown on the graph and table below.

Volatility occurred not only in the real-time market but also in the day-ahead market.  On January 28, day-ahead prices averaged about $600/MWh as shown here…

…while real-time prices averaged less than $400/MWh…

Putting This Into Perspective

For comparison, real-time wholesale prices in PJM averaged $31.21/MWh during 2012.  The peak high price of $2,680.21/MWh that occurred in the Dominion Zone on January 24, 2014 represents an 86-fold increase compared to the average.  This is not an 86% increase but a multiple of 86 increase.  This is the equivalent of walking into a convenience store to buy a gallon of milk and having the clerk tell you that yes, they do have milk, but because of current market conditions, they have to charge you $343 for a gallon.  Comparisons to other everyday items are presented below:

The low price of minus $80.45 per megawatt-hour that occurred during January 27, also in the Dominion Zone, represents a 2.6-fold decrease compared to the average.  This is the equivalent of walking into a Starbucks and having the barista inform you that they have coffee, in fact too much coffee, and they will pay you $5.16 to take a cup away.  Comparisons to other everyday items are presented below:

Conclusion

Wholesale electricity prices are volatile—more volatile than the price of virtually any other commodity.

The volatility of electricity prices during January 2014 shows how much risk purchasers of index electricity products take on. In a related fashion, it also shows how much risk retail energy providers take on when they do not effectively hedge their load.

It is likely that some retail energy providers will not survive this period of volatility.    

For more on how electricity prices in the PJM Interconnection area can be affected by weather and other events, please see:

What Does an Extended Cold Spell Look Like?

What Does a Cold Day Look Like?

What Does a Superstorm (Sandy) Look Like?

What Does a Derecho Look Like?

What Does a Warm Day Look Like?

What Does an Earthquake Look Like?

PJM is divided into twenty load zones.  These zones are color coded on the map below:

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.avalonenergy.us, call us at 888-484-8096, or email us at jmcdonnell@avalonenergy.us.

Note:  Data and graphs from PJM.com

Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.

Copyright 2014 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC

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What Does an Extended Cold Spell Look Like?

This is a follow up to our blog posted Monday evening titled “What Does a Cold Day Look Like?” and looks at the impact on real-time wholesale electricity pricing of extended cold weather.

We reported that as a result of Winter Storm Hercules barreling through the Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast last Thursday and Friday (January 3 and 4), real-time wholesale electricity prices in the  PJM territory were elevated and volatile, ranging from negative prices to $739.70 per megawatt-hour ($/MWh) or $0.74 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).  For comparison, we noted that real-time wholesale prices in PJM averaged $31.21/MWh or $0.0321/kWh during 2012.  We also noted that during times of extremely cold weather, consumers pull out all of the stops.  Air circulation equipment runs longer and electric resistance heating kicks in.  The result is increased usage and high prices.

Moving ahead to Monday and Tuesday, January 6 and 7, the weather remained bitterly cold and the Polar Vortex moved further south.

The difference during this later two day period was that thermal mass (such as building foundations and walls, and the ground itself) had largely dissipated any retained heat.  The result was an increase in the amount of energy required to heat buildings and homes.

From 7:50 PM to 8:25 PM on Monday, January 6, real-time wholesale electricity prices exceeded $1,000/MWh across the entire PJM grid.  As an indication of how far south the cold spell reached, the peak price for the day of $1,238.77, which occurred at 8:10 PM, was in the East Kentucky Power Coop Zone.

Below are PJM real-time prices and system load during the 24 hours of Monday, January 6.

On Tuesday, January 7, real-time wholesale prices exceeded $1,000/MWH from 6:40 AM to 11:55 AM and then again from 5:30 PM to 5:55 PM.  Prices peaked in PJM at 7:15 AM at $2,450.54/MWh.  This occurred in the Dominion Zone.

Below are PJM real-time prices and total system load during the 24 hours of Tuesday, January 7.  Peak system load was reduced significantly by voltage reductions, voluntary customer conservation, and the implementation of demand response.  PJM reported 38,000 MW of generation outages.  Additional electricity supply was imported from two other RTOs – NYISO and MISO.

The table to the left below summarizes the PJM peak real-time wholesale electricity prices over the past four weekdays and shows the 2012 PJM total system average for comparison.  The table to the right shows the PJM total system peak demand which, at 141,483 MW on Tuesday, 1/7/14, represents a new PJM winter record.  The previous winter peak, which was about 5,000 MW lower, was set on 1/5/07.  The all-time system summer peak of 158,450 MW occurred during the summer of 2011.

For more on how electricity prices in the PJM Interconnection area can be affected by weather and other events (i.e., an earthquake), please see:

What Does a Superstorm (Sandy) Look Like?

What Does a Derecho Look Like?

What Does a Warm Day Look Like?

What Does an Earthquake Look Like?

Post Script – A reader in Connecticut sent us the following image indicating that it is also what an extended cold spell looks like:

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.avalonenergy.us, call us at 888-484-8096, or email us at jmcdonnell@avalonenergy.us.

Note:  Data and graphs from PJM.com

Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.

Copyright 2014 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC 

 

 

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What Does a Cold Day Look Like?

In previous blog posts, we have examined how weather and other events affect electricity prices.

What Does a Superstorm (Sandy) Look Like?

What Does a Derecho Look Like? 

What Does a Warm Day Look Like?

What Does an Earthquake Look Like?

We continue this series by looking at how electricity prices in the PJM Interconnection area can be affected by cold weather.

Winter Storm Hercules brought snow and cold temperatures to the northeast United States on Thursday and Friday, January 2 and 3, 2014.

Because of heavy cooling loads, electricity usage and wholesale electricity prices in the PJM area during the summer tend to be substantially higher than usage and wholesale prices during the winter.  Most air conditioners are powered by electricity whereas much of the winter heating load is carried by natural gas and, to some extent, fuel oil.  However, during times of extremely cold weather, consumers pull out all of the stops.  Air circulation equipment runs longer and electric resistance heating kicks in.  The result is increased usage and high prices.

The map below shows real-time wholesale electricity prices at 5:40 PM on January 2.  As is typical, electricity prices are higher in the eastern part of PJM (PJM-East), where most of the load is located, than in the western part of PJM (PJM-West), where most of the generation is concentrated.  Real-time prices differences in PJM are a result of the costs associated with transmitting electricity from generating facilities (source) to load (sink) and the related line losses.  On the map, the price scale in the bottom left corner of the map is in dollars per megawatt-hour ($/MWh).

The east-west differentiation in prices is dramatic.  The table below shows prices in dollars per megawatt-hour ($/MWh) and dollars per kilowatt-hour ($/kWh) for six delivery zones.  For comparison, real-time wholesale prices in PJM averaged $31.21/MWh or $0.03/kWh during 2012.

Summer electricity prices also tend to be substantially more volatile than winter prices.  But, extreme weather, hot or cold, can drive price volatility and at times, winter prices can exhibit strong volatility.  Below is a dramatic example.  While prices in North Jersey (PSEG Zone) were high, around $500/MWh, prices in West Virginia and western Virginia were negative.

This was a result of transmission constraints brought about by the heavy demand in PJM-East and the inability of many coal fired generating plants in PJM-West to ramp down quickly.  In other words, while there was great demand for electricity in PJM-East, there was temporarily insufficient transmission capacity to move electricity from west to east.  These transmission constraints developed more quickly than generation in PJM-West was able or willing to curtail their output.  The result was that, rather than receive revenues for their output, generators had to pay to deliver their energy into the system.

After a continued day of volatile prices, by 11:35 PM electricity prices had moderated significantly over the entire grid.  As shown on the graph below, prices had fallen to the $20/MWh to $40/MWh range.

However, Friday, January 3 brought more cold temperatures…

…and more volatility.  At 2:05 AM on Friday, January 3, less than three hours after the snapshot above, prices spiked, exceeding $700/MWh in northern New Jersey.

During the remainder of Friday, prices continued to exhibit a strong East-West differentiation…

…but showed some periods of quiescence:

…as well as across the board extremely high prices:

The graph below shows real-time prices throughout the entire day:

This graph shows PJM total system wide load over the day.  Peak demand was 128,611 MW.

The Avalon Advantage – Visit our website at www.avalonenergy.us, call us at 888-484-8096, or email us at jmcdonnell@avalonenergy.us.

Note:  Electricity price data and graphs from PJM.com.

Please feel free to share this article.  If you do, please email or post the web link.  Unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication is prohibited.

Copyright 2014 by Avalon Energy® Services LLC