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Analysis: West Power Tracker: Weather, gas push power prices up on month, down on year

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Analysis: West Power Tracker: Weather, gas push power prices up on month, down on year

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Natural gas prices down sharply from November 2018

December, January forwards show similar pattern

Houston — Wholesale power prices in the West were generally the highest in the contiguous US in November and were up sharply from October prices, but down from November 2018, largely because of weather-related differences in power demand and natural gas prices.

December and January power forwards made similar moves, up on the month but down on the year.

Among the 30 power pricing points included in S&P Global Platts' monthly Trackers, the two California Independent System Operator hubs, NP15 and SP15, had the highest average day-ahead on-peak locational marginal prices, at $43.66/MWh and $44.14/MWh, respectively.

Those prices were up 14% from October for NP15 and almost 25% from October for SP15, but down 20.3% and 18.1%, respectively, from their November 2018 averages.

Average daily peakloads were up in the Bonneville Power Administration by 8.5% to 7.7 GW in November, compared with October's 7.1 GW, and up almost 5% from last November's 7.3 GW.

However, the much larger Cal-ISO market's average daily peakload was down both on the month and year by larger absolute amounts. This November's average was 27.5 GW, compared with October's average of 28.5 GW and last November's 28 GW.

One reason for Cal-ISO's decreasing loads was more moderate temperatures, with population-weighted heating-degree days in November averaging 4.9 HDDs, more than triple the October number of 1.5 HDDs and more than 24% higher than last November's 3.9 HDDs.

The BPA's HDDs were up, as well, at 19.4, compared with October's 15.2 HDDs and last November's 18.7 HDDs.

With cooler temperatures, month on month, natural gas prices were higher, but down sharply from last November, when general maintenance on pipelines cut flows sharply, and the Northwest Canadian Border - Sumas price hit its highest prices in more than a decade -- $66.08/MMBtu on November 16, 2018.

At the SoCal Gas price point, spot gas averaged $2.708/MMBtu this November, up about 11% from October's $2.443/MMBtu, but down sharply from last November's $4.18/MMBtu.

At Sumas, natural gas averaged $4.113/MMBtu this November, up about 23% from October's $3.353/MMBtu but down by more than 66% from last November's $12.159/MMBtu.

GENERATION MIX

With natural gas prices up on the month but down sharply on the year, thermal's share of average daily generation in BPA was down to 9% this November from October's 12.3% but up from November 2018's 8%.

Due to a technical malfunction, not all of November's generation mix data from Cal-ISO was available Monday for analysis, but through November 21, thermal generation maintained its lead at 35.2%, up from this October's 34.7% but down from November 2018's 35.7%.

Imports had the second-largest share this November, at 26.2%, up from October's 22.9% and last November's 25.4%.

Solar also showed increases, averaging almost 19% this November, compared with this October's 15.5% and double last November's 9.4%.

Cal-ISO's average daily generation from hydro resources was down to 7.8% this November, compared with October's 11% and last November's 8.5%.

Nuclear's share was flat from October to November, at 4.7%, but this was barely half of last November's share of 9.2%.

FORWARD PACKAGES

Looking forward, December and January forwards were generally up on the month, but down on the year, partly because of the extraordinarily high gas forward trading levels last November.

Mid-Columbia December on-peak forwards averaged about $45.75/MWh this November, up almost 19% from their October average, but down 41.7% from what the December 2018 forwards averaged last November.

Mid-C January forwards showed a similar pattern, with January on-peak forwards averaging about $40.50/MWh this November, up about 15.7% from the October average, but down about 37% from what the January 2019 forwards averaged in November 2018.

SP15 December on-peak forwards averaged $45.61/MWh this November, up by more than 5% from the October average, but down by 40% from the December 2018 forwards average of $76.14/MWh last November.

SP15 January on-peak averaged $43.50/MWh this November, up 3.2% from the October average, but down about 36% from what the January 2019 forwards averaged in November 2018.

At the Sumas price point, December forwards averaged $4.725/MMBtu this November, up from about $4/MMBtu in Ocotber, but down from $11.445/MMBtu for the December 2018 forward package last November.

Sumas January forwards averaged $3.956/MMBtu this November, up from the October average of $3.91/MMBtu, but down from the $8.327/MMBtu average of January 2019 Sumas forwards in November 2018.

Another factor moderating power and gas forwards may have been the weather forecast. The US National Weather Service forecast for December, issued November 30, called for enhanced chances for above-normal temperatures across most of the West, with an area of enhanced chances for near-normal temperatures centering on northwest Arizona, eastern California, Nevada and most of Utah.

The forecast for December, January and February, issued November 21, called for enhanced chances for above-normal temperatures across virtually all of the West.

-- Mark Watson, markham.watson@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Rocco Canonica, newsdesk@spglobal.com