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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for December 2020 Release Date: February 24, 2021 Next Release Date: March 24, 2021

Regional Wholesale Markets: December 2020

The United States has many regional wholesale electricity markets. Below we look at monthly and annual ranges of on-peak, daily wholesale prices at selected pricing locations and daily peak demand for selected electricity systems in the Nation. The range of daily prices and demand data is shown for the report month and for the year ending with the report month.

Prices and demand are shown for six Regional Transmission Operator (RTO) markets: ISO New England (ISO-NE), New York ISO (NYISO), PJM Interconnection (PJM), Midwest ISO (MISO), Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and two locations in the California ISO (CAISO). Also shown are wholesale prices at trading hubs in Louisiana (into Entergy), Southwest (Palo Verde) and Northwest (Mid-Columbia). In addition to the RTO systems, peak demand is also shown for the Southern Company, Progress Florida, and the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA). Refer to the map tabs for the locations of the electricity and natural gas pricing hubs and the electric systems for which peak demand ranges are shown.

In the second tab immediately below, we show monthly and annual ranges of on-peak, daily wholesale natural gas prices at selected pricing locations in the United States. The range of daily natural gas prices is shown for the same month and year as the electricity price range chart. Wholesale electricity prices are closely tied to wholesale natural gas prices in all but the center of the country. Therefore, one can often explain current wholesale electricity prices by looking at what is happening with natural gas prices.

Wholesale prices

The arrival of a cold front in mid-December across the Midcontinent and Eastern United States caused a short-term spike in wholesale electricity and natural gas prices in these regions. Wholesale natural gas prices set new 12-month highs on December 17 of $5.38/MMBtu in New York City (Transco Z6 NY). The next day on December 18, New England (Algonquin) set a new 12-month high of $11.50/MMBtu and the Mid-Atlantic (Tetco M-3) also set a high at $5.57/MMBtu. Meanwhile, prices at the Henry Hub in Louisiana ranged from $2.36-$2.89/MMBtu during the month. Wholesale electricity prices set new 12-month highs this month on December 15 in Louisiana (into Entergy) at $39.25/MWh and on December 18 at $104/MWh in New England (ISONE) and at $70/MWh in New York City (NYISO). High prices remained below $51/MWh at all other selected trading hubs during the month.

Electricity system daily peak demand

Electricity system daily peak demands were higher in December than November on all selected systems, though demand remained on the lower-end to middle of each systems’ annual range. Compared to all-time peak demand levels in each region, demand in December ranged from only 59% of all-time peak in California (CAISO) to 80% of all-time peak in Southern Company. These moderate demand levels are a reflection of slightly above-average temperatures across the southern United States to much above-average and nearly record warmth in the northern United States. This had a dampening effect on energy demand as less space-heating load was required.