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Hurricane Delta power outages expected to bring lower demand, power prices

Highlights

Over 15,000 customer outages before landfall

Main impacts expected in MISO South, TVA

New York — With utilities in the Southern US recovering from Hurricane Laura, which hit Louisiana six weeks ago, the impacts of Hurricane Delta could linger for weeks after making landfall Oct. 9 with expectations of widespread power outages, decreased demand, prices and damaged infrastructure.

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Power outages began rising during the afternoon of Oct. 9 as the storm's outer bands started hitting the Louisiana Coast. Entergy Louisiana, which serves over one million customers, had over 7,000 customers without power around 3 pm eastern time, according to poweroutage.us. The outages were due to the storm, spokesman Jerry Nappi confirmed in an email.

Beauregard Electric Cooperative had over 8,000 customers without power around that time, according to poweroutage.us.

Entergy had assembled a 7,000-person storm team to help with power restoration, according to an emailed statement. "The storm's dangerous winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall could cause extended power outages," the company said.

Heavy rainfall is expected to lead to "significant flash flooding and minor to major river flooding" in parts of Louisiana Oct. 9 and 10, the National Hurricane Center said in an update.

"The impacts of Hurricane Delta appear to [for the time being] be isolated to Midcontinent Independent System Operator South and Tennessee Valley Authority," Kieran Kemmerer, power market analyst with S&P Global Platts Analytics, said in an email.

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"As was the case with Hurricane Laura, it's likely MISO South in particular will sustain substantial demand destruction," Kemmerer said. "In the event high voltage transmission infrastructure is critically damaged, it is also possible we could again see a significant restoration effort from utilities in the region, which may result in isolated load pockets and very localized congestion."

Trees and other vegetation already damaged or weakened by Hurricane Laura could increase power outage severity.

"As the storm moves through parts of our service territory, customers should be prepared for heavy rainfall, damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and power outages," James Lass, director of distribution operations and emergency management at regional utility Cleco, said in an Oct. 9 statement. Cleco serves approximately 288,000 customers in Louisiana.

Lass noted that "weakened trees from Hurricane Laura that didn't fall during that storm could be more susceptible to wind now."

"Additionally, ahead of Delta's landfall, areas within our service territory already have received significant rainfall which will make it easier for trees to be uprooted due to the saturated ground," Lass said.

Infrastructure impacts

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on its Facebook page Oct. 9 that it does not expect Hurricane Delta to have significant impacts at nuclear power plants in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Those are the 1.2-GW Waterford-3 and 992-MW River Bend-1 plants in Louisiana and the 1.5-GW Grand Gulf-1 plant in Mississippi.

"US natural gas supplies have hit some of the lowest levels seen in over two years this week, with offshore shut-ins coming amidst a prolonged bearishness in global oil prices due to the coronavirus pandemic," said Kent Berthoud, an S&P Global Platts Analytics energy analyst.

"The recent production declines have been offset by a reduction in LNG exports, with both Cameron LNG and Sabine Pass LNG lying squarely in Hurricane Delta's projected path," Berthoud said. "While front-month contracts have traded higher on the expected recovery, further downside risk to demand coupled with record-high inventories in the US Gulf Coast continue to weigh on cash prices at Henry Hub, which have fallen more than 50 cents/MMBtu day over day."

"Delta has had a muted response from power burn so far, but if the storm is as damaging as Hurricane Laura, which is comparable in both wind-speed and trajectory, power burn could face between 1-2 Bcf/d of declines on a per degree basis during the height of the storm," he said.

Although the storm's projected path sends it into PJM Interconnection territory, the grid operator is not expecting severe impacts.

"We have been monitoring the timing and track of the storm all week and are not expecting much of an impact," PJM spokesman Jeff Shields said.

"For PJM, we expect mainly a rain event in some of the southern parts of the RTO, with isolated/localized flash flooding possible," Sheilds said. "We don't expect extreme temperatures."

Platts Analytics' Kemmerer said: "Warmer tropical air and precipitation will bring about lower electric heating loads and lend to lower PJM RTO loads, and ultimately put further downward pressure on power prices."