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Natural gas price spike hikes New England power prices: report

Houston — Spurred by spiking natural gas prices, ISO New England real-time power prices surged in March, according to a report to be presented Friday to the New England Power Pool Participants Committee.

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Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO New England executive vice president and chief operating officer, is scheduled to present a monthly report, posted on the ISO's website Thursday, that shows that real-time average locational marginal prices averaged $35.43/MWh through March 29, compared with $28.05/MWh in February and $17.20/MWh in March 2016.

"Average March 2017 natural gas prices and RT Hub LMPs over the period were up 142% and up 106%, respectively, from March 2016 averages," Chadalavada said in a written presentation.

At the Algonquin city-gate, spot natural gas prices averaged $4.522/MMBtu this March, compared with $3.73/MMBtu in February and $1.873/MMBtu in March 2016, according to S&P Global Platts data.

Despite the overall higher average prices for March, Chadalavada said ISO New England had "negative pricing ... at various times throughout" March 2, driven by real-time generation exceeding day-ahead cleared amounts, combined with real-time loads below forecast early in the day and above forecast during peak hours, and binding reserve constraints.

About 1,000 MWh was offered at negative prices, averaging negative $28.26/MWh, around 6 am on March 2, falling to an average of $49.58/MWh around noon, with about 700 MWh offered at negative prices. By 7 pm, prices had surged to positive $65.07/MWh, according to Chadalavada's presentation.

For the month through March 29, loads averaged about 313 GWh/day, compared with 335.9 GWh/day in February and 315.8 GWh/day in March 2016.

Chadalavada also described how ISO New England handled a severe winter storm on March 14, when significant snowfall totals stretched across New England, but most heavily in southern Vermont, which had 34 inches in the 24 hours ending the morning of March 15.

Wind gusts were also extreme, topping 60 mph in several areas of southeastern New England -- even hitting 77 mph in northeastern Massachusetts, Chadalavada's report showed.

In preparation for the storm, ISO New England recalled all available transmission and generation that had been out for scheduled maintenance to be available, participated in storm-readiness conference calls with the New York-based Northeast Power Coordinating Council, the PJM Interconnection and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, and called on interstate pipeline operators to share data, Chadalavada said.

"Equipment failure at a major Eastern Massachusetts substation caused the loss of 5 major transmission elements at 12:09 [pm] on Tuesday during the storm," Chadalavada's report said. "The Transmission Owner was able to clear the damaged equipment at the substation during the storm and restoration of four of the five lines began at 14:30 with the last line restored 15:54."

The transmission problem prompted ISO New England to commit additional units in southeastern Massachusetts, Chadalavada said.

Nevertheless, customer outages topped 124,000 around 8 pm on March 14, he said.

--Mark Watson,

--Edited by Annie Siebert,