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Polar vortex hitting US Central region heads east boosting power, gas prices

Highlights

Colder weather expected all week

Elevated loads, power, gas prices in northeast

New York — Colder weather with polar vortex conditions moving through the Central US and into the Northeast around the weekend is boosting power and natural gas prices in New England, New York, and PJM Interconnection.

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A shift in the polar vortex, which pushes Arctic air down into the US, has resulted in extremely low temperatures in the north-Central part of the country with that cold air mass expected to move eastward throughout the week, AccuWeather said in a Feb. 8 report.

Temperatures in International Falls, Minnesota, reached negative 36 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning of Feb. 8, AccuWeather said.

"Weather forecasts call for yet another colder week (on average) as the polar vortex settles in across the Midwest US," S&P Global Platts Analytics said in a research note.

Gas prices across the PJM region have moved up to over $3/MMBtu (Tetco M3 next day trading near $4/MMBtu), after brief spells of volatility last week, the analysts said.

PJM West Hub next week strip for Feb. 15-Feb. 19 was up about $1.25 on Feb. 8 to trade at $50.75/MWh.

The average ISO-NE real-time price around 3 pm ET was $86.10/MWh, with some zones including Internal Hub, above $87/MWh, according to the ISO. The average RTO-wide day-ahead price was $90.36/MWh around that time.

Internal Hub on-peak day-ahead location marginal prices averaged $45.41/MWh in January, a jump of 59.6% year on year, according to ISO data. Prices reached as high as $94.76/MWh Jan. 29, the same day peakload reached its month high of 18.654 GW, the highest January peakload in two years.

ISO-NE projected peakload for the week is forecast to hit 17.90 GW on Feb. 9, according to the grid operator's Seven-Day Capacity Forecast.

NYISO prices, load

New York Independent System Operator RTO-wide real-time power prices were about 57% lower than their eastern neighbor mid-afternoon Feb. 8, except in Long Island Zone K where real-time prices were $102.25/MWh, according to the grid operator.

Day-ahead prices averaged $29.02/MWh across the RTO at that time, with Zone K remaining an outlier with day-ahead prices of $103.59/ MWh.

NYISO Zone J NYC day-ahead on-peak locational marginal prices climbed 42.3% year on year to average $38.84/MWh in January, an increase of 10.6% month on month, according to ISO data.

The biggest price jump occurred Jan. 29 when prices nearly doubled to $95.87/MWh, as average temperatures dipped as low as 16 degrees and peakload reached the month high of 22.5 GW, according to data from the ISO and CustomWeather. Prices reached $97.33/MWh Jan. 31, a 13-month high, according to ISO data.

Transco Zone 6 New York gas prices averaged $3.134/MMBtu in January, a jump of 42.2% year on year and up 12.9% month on month, according to S&P Global Platts pricing data. Gas prices had climbed to $6/MMBtu by the end of the month.

The NYISO's highest load during the week is forecast to reach 20.1 GW on Feb. 12.

"Arctic air is likely to get even more extensive by this weekend," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said, as the frigid air mass makes "a lunge into the South Central states and an eastward lunge through the Northeast."