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Friday Oct 5, 2018   
The U.S. power grid is undergoing a unprecedented transformation with the integration of renewable energy resources and the retirement of many base load fossil units, especially coal.  By most accounts this transformation is far from over: renewables are continuing to grow and batteries and other new technologies are making their way onto the grid.  With all this change in the power sector, one thing has not changed much at all: the way you connect a generator.   Figure 1 | Get In Line...... Transmission-owning utilities and RTOs have been obligated to connect generators on nondiscriminatory basis since FERC issued Order 888 in 1996.  But buying grid access is not like other utility services that have posted prices.  An interconnection request begins a ... » read more
Thursday Oct 4, 2018   
During the shoulder months, the temperatures tend to shift into a comfortable range. With demand for air conditioning and electric baseboard heating remaining relatively low, demand throughout electrical grids subside. This is when generators decide to take time to perform routine maintenance. As facilities go offline, more costly units can be pulled into the market in order to meet even below average electric demand. We have seen this occurring throughout the ISONE with several maintenance outages currently in place. With so many outages across the system, the system has performed admirably. Although the locational marginal prices have increased, the market has managed to hold it together making the best use of its available resources. The first outage was not throughout the electric ... » read more
Wednesday Oct 3, 2018   
After a summer of hot weather, the fall season usually brings the leaves changing color and plenty of football for all the college/professional fans to watch any given weekend.  What we tend to forget about is the shift in the Renewable component that is known as wind generation.  During a football game, you can see the little flags on the field goal posts indication the direction and the speed of the wind while the actual kickers making a motion with their hands on how the wind direction impacted the missed field goal. A couple of weeks ago, that was the case when the Green Bay Packers kicker missed the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock.  After the two teams tied, the kicker was talking about how the cross wind in the stadium played a roll in the ... » read more
Tuesday Oct 2, 2018   
The injection season is closing fast. There are only five weeks left before the natural gas industry switches over to withdrawals. Although most of the country adheres to the switching from injections to draws, the South Central typically injects volume through the month of November. This year that is almost a certainty as the Salt storage inventory has not seen a solid build since the middle of June and is now posting 173 BCF.  That is 123 BCF less than last year and 23 BCF less than where they were at the beginning of the summer injection season.  Figure 1 | EIA South Central Salt Storage Inventory for 2014 - 2018   Despite the jump in North American Production as well as the increase in pipeline flows to the Gulf, South Central demand has overwhelmed the balancing. » read more
Monday Oct 1, 2018   
We have discussed the two hurricanes that have turned into tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard along the Carolinas.  Both brought the substantial precipitation, in the form of rainfall, to both regions as well as impacting the electrical supply grid by shutting down any nuclear facility in their respective path as well as coal/natural gas units tied to flooding of some sort.  Both of the storms fell in the heart of hurricane season tied to the Atlantic Ocean. Figure 1 | Hurricane/Tropical Storm Florence's Path As we start the new month of October, the hurricane season is not over as we have seen some late storms roll into the Gulf of Mexico over the years.  As it stands right now, we need to be directing our attention over to the Pacific Ocean as ... » read more
Friday Sep 28, 2018   
As the California ISO (CAISO) continues its efforts to integrate and balance ever-increasing slugs of renewable energy (mostly solar), the other institutions which impact the CAISO markets are not doing them any favors. Figure 1 | CAISO Hourly Net Load Profile  Last April the CAISO published an excellent report titled “Second Revised Flexible Capacity Framework.” Admittedly, it has a boring title, but this report provided great detail about two inter-related challenges. One challenge was simply the magnitude of the evening ramp – the neck of the famous Duck Curve. The second, and more interesting, challenge is the uncertainty around the size of this ramp each day. They looked at 2017 data and compared day ahead schedules for load and generation and calculated for ... » read more
Thursday Sep 27, 2018   
The PJM fuel mix just reached new lows in the coal to gas ratio. The discovery of the Marcellus and Utica shale basins located within the PJM footprint have propelled the construction of new natural gas combined cycle power plants. These generators are among the most efficient facilities on the grid with heat rates that continue to decline. With cheap fuel and efficient operations, the facilities’ break even costs allow them to run as baseload generation. This has driven coal higher up the supply stack causing less efficient units to retire. Looking at Figure 1, we can see the coal to gas ratio has trended lower throughout 2018 when compared to the previous year. Earlier this month, we hit a new low as the ratio fell past the 0.6 level. Figure 1 | Year over Year Coal to Gas Ratio ... » read more
Wednesday Sep 26, 2018   
Over the years, California has been on the forefront of many conversations.  If you go all the way back to the mid-90's deregulation was making its way through the regulatory and political parties.  Once the quirky rules were in place, who could forget the California Energy Crisis in the early 2000's.  Once all the smoke cleared from the fallout, the California power grid was trying to rebuild itself into the powerhouse it once was.  It was just after the halfway point of the new decade when the grid went from a zonal to a nodal market with both a day-ahead and real-time market.  As things started to rock and roll, the system operators introduced what was known as the SCE Limit, which was a stipulation that a certain amount of energy needed to be procured within ... » read more
Tuesday Sep 25, 2018   
We have seen an unbelievable jump in Alberta natural gas demand this year. The expansion of oil sands operations as well as a big shift in the provincial generation dispatch from coal to natural gas has pushed the consumption up by 1 BCF per day compared to similar conditions last year. That is a gain of 19% in one years time. The jump in demand has helped natural gas producers avoid a catastrophe. Restrictions due to NGTL expansion activities have locked in production volumes this year. That means they have seen big limitations to both export and storage markets that have caused big drops in the AECO cash prices.  Figure 1 | NGTL System Demand for 2015 - 2018 Cheap natural gas prices have helped a good deal of this demand growth. But in the coming weeks we will see a demand surge ... » read more
Monday Sep 24, 2018   
At this time last week, the Carolinas were getting ravished as Tropical Storm Florence was 48 to 72 hours into making landfall.  The onslaught of such a storm created massive flooding in many areas including the path of several nuclear facilities.  As a result, we walked in last Monday with NRC posting several thousand megawatts of capacity offline which meant that the power markets implied heat rates would be shifting up as a big chunk of baseload energy was lost. Figure 1 | NRC Daily Capacity Offline - Year on Year Comparison Figure 1 details the movement discussed above as the dark blue line represents 2018.  You can clearly see the straight line up as of the 17th of September, where the offline generation capacity shot up from just over 5 GW to 15 GW.  As the week ... » read more
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