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Most power markets stumble with softer demand outlooks; Texas prices advance

Power dailies were mostly softer Thursday, Dec. 21, amid predominantly weaker demand outlooks for the close of the workweek ahead of Christmas Day.

Traders also kept watch on natural gas market activity. Losing 5.5 cents in the midweek session, NYMEX January 2018 natural gas futures eased further to settle at $2.598/MMBtu, down 3.9 cents following the release of the latest weekly storage data.

The report, issued at midmorning by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, detailed a larger-than-expected 182-Bcf pull from storage for the week ended Dec. 15 as colder weather in many major consuming regions drove demand higher.

In step with the ongoing losses in futures, next-day natural gas markets were mixed but generally lower Thursday, which also worked to pressure power dailies.

ERCOT day-ahead market power values advance

Running counter to the overall trend, Texas day-ahead power markets were higher Thursday, with an anticipated upswing in load working to lift values. Demand on the ERCOT grid is likely to top out near 42,800 MW on Friday, rising 2,500 MW from Thursday.

DAM prices for Friday posted averages at $22.16 at ERCOT Houston, $22.18 at ERCOT North, $22.29 at ERCOT West and $23.19 at ERCOT South. Values were firm to $2 higher on average on the session.

Northeast power prices slump amid bearish fundamentals

Power markets in the Northeast retreated in value amid lower demand forecasts and losses for regional gas prices.

In New England, power at the NEPOOL-Mass Hub was priced in the mid- to high $60s, losing about $13. Peak power at the PJM West hub in the mid-Atlantic traded in the mid-$20s, down about $6 on the day.

DAM prices for Friday faltered $2 to $5 on average across the region, coming in at $80.43 at NEPOOL-Mass, $29.63 at New York's Zone A, $34.89 at Zone G and $35.49 at Zone J.

New England demand is likely to crest at 18,000 MW on Friday, down 100 MW from Thursday, while New York load is likely to hit 20,000 MW on Friday, easing about 800 MW from Thursday. In the mid-Atlantic, PJM Western region load is expected to peak at 51,130 MW on Friday, tumbling 4,500 MW from the day prior. Demand in the PJM Mid-Atlantic region is likely to crest at 34,750 MW on Friday, down 4,000 MW from Thursday.

Softer values at Northeastern natural gas markets also pressed on power prices around the region. Spot gas at Transco Zone-6 New York posted an index near $2.55/MMBtu, down roughly 80 cents. Product at Tetco-M3 was eyed at an average around $2.25/MMBtu, losing about 50 cents.

West Coast power values slide further ahead of holiday

Power prices on the West Coast lurched lower, with an expected dip in demand over the approaching holiday weekend joining with weakness in regional gas markets.

In light of the weekend and Christmas Day, power was booked Thursday in altered packages again, with peak deals inked for delivery Dec. 23.

As such, industrial and commercial demand is likely to leak lower during the days leading up to the holiday. California ISO load is called to hit 31,130 MW on Friday, down about 500 MW from Thursday before likely easing further Dec. 23 and 24.

Heavy load power at the California-Oregon Border ran in the upper $20s, falling about $10. Light-load power at the market was quoted in the low to mid-$20s. At Mid-Columbia, heavy-load power deals were melded in the mid- to high $20s, down about $8 from the prior session.

Palo Verde heavy-load business traded in the mid-$20s, losing $6 or so on the session. Heavy-load power at Mead was seen in the upper $20s to low $30s, dropping about $2 to $3 in value.

Gas prices along the West Coast were varied. At PG&E City Gate, cash gas was priced at an average near $2.85/MMBtu, down 5 cents.

Midwest power prices softer amid weaker demand, gas

In the Midwest, power prices lost ground amid lower load outlooks and weaker spot gas values. Peak power at the Indiana hub ran in the mid-$20s, decreasing $2 on the day.

Load in PJM AEP is expected to reach a high at 15,600 MW on Friday, faltering 2,300 MW from Thursday. Demand in the PJM ComEd region near Chicago is expected to peak near 12,425 MW on Friday, decreasing about 800 MW from Thursday.

Spot gas at the Chicago market was assessed at an index around $2.55/MMBtu, declining 10 cents.

Market prices and included industry data are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change. For more detailed market data, including power and natural gas index prices, as well as forwards and futures, visit our Commodities pages.