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MISO Power Tracker: Power prices climb year on year with gas price strength

Highlights

Lighter loads cut baseload reliance

Forwards up on year with gas

Houston — Midcontinent Independent System Operator wholesale power prices strengthened this March, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, compared with March 2020, mainly because of continued natural gas price strength resulting from the mid-February winter storm. MISO forwards were also higher for similar reasons.

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Day-ahead on-peak locational marginal prices averaged in the low to mid-$20s/MWh across MISO's central and northern hubs, but averaged around $30/MWh in the Louisiana and Texas hubs hit hard by the mid-February winter storm, according to S&P Global Platts pricing data.

At the Chicago city-gates, spot gas averaged $2.471/MMBtu this March, down sharply from February's $22.751/MMBtu but up sharply from March 2020's $1.573/MMBtu.

At the Henry Hub in Louisiana, spot gas averaged $2.565/MMBtu this March, down from this February's $5.146/MMBtu but up from March 2020's $1.756/MMBtu.

Weather-driven demand appeared to play little role in the year-on-year price strength.

MISO's peakloads averaged less than 74.2 GW this March, little changed from March 2020's 74 GW, based on MISO data. In February, peakloads averaged about 87.9 GW.

Population-weighted heating-degree days this March averaged down about 52.2% from this February and down 5.1% from March 2020, according to CustomWeather data.

Population-weighted daily low temperatures averaged 34 degrees Fahrenheit this March, up from this February's 12.9 degrees F, but down from March 2020's 34.3 degrees F.

Generation mix

Lighter loads meant less reliance on baseload generation, which allowed MISO's wind fleet generation share to pass nuclear power in MISO's generation mix, to assume the No. 3 spot, providing 18.1%, compared with nuclear power's 16.7%. Wind had just 11.6% this February, compared with nuclear's 14.8%. In March 2020, wind had a 14.3% share, compared with nuclear's 17.4%.

Coal-fired generation kept its leading share this March, but at 36.1%, it was down significantly from this February's 45.1%, albeit up from March 2020's 29%.

Natural gas retained the No. 2 spot 25.5%, unchanged from this February but down sharply from March 2020's 35.4%.

Forward markets

MISO's May on-peak power forwards changed little, month to month, but were significantly higher than May 2020 forwards in March 2020, largely because of changes in natural gas prices.

For example, Indiana Hub May on-peak packages averaged about $31/MWh this March, down slightly from their $31.65/MWh average this February, but up sharply from the $24.75/MWh that May 2020 forwards averaged in March 2020.

Louisiana Hub May on-peak averaged about $31.60/MWh, down slightly from this February's $30.25/MWh, but up sharply from the $24.35/MWh that May 2020 forwards averaged in March 2020.

Chicago May gas averaged $2.507/MMBtu this March, down from $2.718/MMBtu this February but up from the $1.585/MMBtu that May 2020 gas averaged in March 2020.

Henry Hub May gas averaged $2.658/MMBtu this March, down from $2.893/MMBtu this February but up from the $1.775/MMBtu that May 2020 gas averaged in March 2020.

The National Weather Service's forecast for April, May and June, which was issued March 18, indicated chances for above-normal temperatures ranging from 40% to 60% for almost all of the MISO footprint.