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As strengthening Nicholas nears Texas, Louisiana utilities clean up from Ida

Highlights

ERCOT demand lighter than usual

Prices up on natural gas prices

Thousands still without power in Louisiana

As Tropical Storm Nicholas threatened flash-flooding and a storm surge for the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 13, Louisiana electric utilities progressed restoring power from Hurricane Ida, but more than 110,000 customers still lacked service as of mid-afternoon.

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Power demand in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas was lighter than usual, but power prices on Sept. 13 stronger than any of the past give years on that date.

The National Weather Service in its 1 pm CT Sept. 13 public advisory said the southern and middle Texas coasts faced "flash flooding, dangerous storm surge and gusty winds" from Nicholas, which packed maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.

The storm was forecast to stay just offshore and "could be near hurricane strength when it reaches the northwest Gulf Coast," with tropical-storm-force winds extending as much as 115 miles from the center. The latest forecast shows the storm making landfall before 7 am Sept. 14 between Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca.

Lighter loads, stronger prices

As of about 3:15 pm CT, ERCOT's systemwide power demand had reached 56 GW, and the system was forecast to only reach 57.9 GW for the day, less than the previous five-year average of almost 59 GW on Sept. 13, ERCOT data shows.

However, this year's strong natural gas prices kept real-time and day-ahead on-peak locational marginal prices well above average for Sept. 13.

Through 3 pm CT, real-time on-peak LMPs at the ERCOT North Hub, the system's most liquid location, averaged about $40.60/MWh, according to ERCOT data, compared with a range of $23.06/MWh to $29.24/MWh for that date 2016 through 2020.

ERCOT North day-ahead on-peak LMPs for delivery Sept. 13 averaged $47.75/MWh, well above the $31.37/MWh average of the previous five years on that date, and even above the five-year maximum of $46.25/MWh. It should be noted that the Sept. 13 day-ahead price was up about $6 from the previous day-ahead price.

ERCOT North day-ahead on-peak LMPs for delivery Sept. 14 was $53/MWh, according to the Intercontinental Exchange, as ERCOT forecast peakload for the remainder of the week to range from 61.4 GW to 68.5 GW, heavier than the previous five-year average of 60.7 GW.

On Sept. 13, S&P Global Platts observed Houston Ship Channel spot gas trading around $5.15/MMBtu on the Intercontinental Exchange, well above the previous five-year settled-price range of $1.92/MMBtu to $2.985/MMBtu for that date.

As of 3:30 pm CT, only CenterPoint Energy, which primarily serves the Houston area, was the sole Texas utility reporting more than 1,000 customers offline, totaling about 5,600.

Louisiana service restoration

In contrast, Entergy still had 107,637 customers without service two seeks after Category 4 Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana Gulf Coast near Port Fourchon with wind speeds around 150 mph.

Dixie Electric Membership Corporation was the only other Louisiana electric utility with more than 1,000 customers lacking service, at around 9,000 as of 3:30 pm CT.

As service has been restored, power demand and real-time prices have risen in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which serves almost all of Louisiana.

As of 3:30 pm CT, MISO's load had topped 94 GW, more than the forecast peak of 93.6 GW. At the Louisiana Hub, real-time prices averaged about $63.50/MWh at that time, well above the previous five-year range of $26.63/MWh to $52.89/MWh on that date.

As power crews continue to work to restore service, they must also keep in mind the approach of Tropical Storm Nicholas, which is forecast to cross into Louisiana as a tropical depression on Sept. 15.

"We are prepared for periods of shower and thunderstorm activity in Texas and Louisiana through Wednesday," Entergy said in a news release Sept. 13.

Entergy on Sept. 13 showed estimated restoration times extending to Sept. 17 for three Louisiana parishes, Sept. 22 for one more and "no later than" Sept. 29 for five others.

Dixie Electric Membership Corporation continues to struggle to restore service to its mostly rural customers between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

In a Sept. 12 statement, Randy Pierce, DEMCO CEO and general manager, called Ida "one of the worst storms to impact our system in the history of DEMCO."

DEMCO's estimated restoration times extend as late as Oct. 16.

"Several pieces and spans of transmission infrastructure that are being repaired were DEMCO work plan projects that took six to nine months to complete when they were originally constructed," Pierce said.