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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for March 2017  |  Release Date: May 25, 2017  |  Next Release Date: June 26, 2017

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Regional Wholesale Markets: March 2017

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, Tucson Electric, 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



Selected wholesale electricity pricing locations

In March, wholesale natural gas and electricity prices varied widely at trading hubs across the country, as often occurs in March which can have unsettled weather patterns. On any given day, colder weather can induce heating demand in one part of the country while warmer weather calls for cooling demand in another area. Temperatures and weather conditions can also change rapidly at any one location during this time of year. This month was also unique in that March was colder than February throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, a rare though not unheard of occurrence. The highest wholesale electricity and natural gas prices in the country were found in New England ($8.25/MMBtu natural gas, $67/MWh electricity), New York City ($6.95/MMBtu natural gas, $71/MWh electricity) and the Mid-Atlantic ($4.81/MMBtu, $57/MWh electricity). The lowest wholesale electricity prices in the country, by far, were found in the Northwest (Mid-C), at only $2.63/MWh on March 30 and 31 and peaked for the month at $23.50/MWh on March 7.

Prices are often low in the Northwest during the spring as a combination of warming weather and snowmelt both reduces electricity demand and increases generation at hydroelectric facilities. These conditions were exacerbated this year, as one of the rainiest March's on record in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho added hydroelectric "fuel" to an already abundant snowpack built over the winter. One way to measure current hydro conditions in the Northwest is by looking at water flow at The Dalles Dam, a run-of-the-river facility on the Columbia River east of Portland. Flow rose rapidly from 213,000 cubic feet per second on March 1 to 437,000 cubic feet per second on March 23. Flows averaged 329,000 cubic feet per second across the month, nearly double the 177,000 cubic feet per second five-year average (2012-2016) and similar to peak flow totals usually occurring during the May-June annual peak flow period.

Electricity system daily peak demand


Electric systems selected for daily peak demand

Electricity system daily peak demand levels in March were surprisingly similar to February's, a result of colder-than-normal temperatures in March after much-warmer-than-normal temperatures in February. This kept demand fairly steady in many of the electricity systems identified here. Across New England (ISONE), New York State (NYISO), the Mid-Atlantic (PJM), the Midwest (MISO), and California (CAISO), minimum and maximum daily peak demand throughout the month changed by less than five percent when compared to the high and low peak load days in February. All systems had daily peak load days that were close to the 12-month minimum, with Progress Florida setting a new 12-month low on March 4.

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