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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for January 2017  |  Release Date: March 24, 2017  |  Next Release Date: April 25, 2017

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Regional Wholesale Markets: January 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

Wholesale natural gas and electricity prices varied widely by trading hub in January. The highest prices were found in the Northeast, which is typical in this pipeline-constrained region during the winter. Both electricity and natural gas prices peaked on Monday, January 9, the last of a days-long cold snap. Temperatures on this day reached only 19 degrees in Boston and 23 degrees in New York City, far below averages.

This cold weather led to electricity prices of $96/MWh in New York City (NYISO) and $81/MWh in New England (ISONE) and natural gas prices of $7.90/MMBtu in New York City (Transco Z6 NY) and $10.05/MMBtu in New England (Algonquin). Prices at these hubs dropped precipitously the next day, January 10, as temperatures increased 20+ degrees and demand moderated.

The next highest electricity and natural gas prices were found in the Northwest, a somewhat rare occurrence as plentiful hydropower and moderate temperatures often lead to lower prices in the region when compared to the rest of the country. This month, however, the weather was much colder-than-normal in Washington, Oregano, and Idaho for the second straight month. Natural gas prices at Sumas reached $5.46/MMBtu on January 3 with electricity prices hitting $62/MMBtu at the Mid-C trading hub. This is the highest natural gas price recorded at Sumas since March 5, 2014.

Wholesale natural gas prices across the rest of the country (outside of the Northeast and Northwest) remained in the $3-$4/MMBtu range most of the month, though this is on the upper end of each hub's 12-month range. Wholesale electricity prices across the rest of the country remained roughly in the middle of each hub's respective 12-month range.

Electricity system daily peak demand

Electric systems selected for daily peak demand

Electricity system daily peak demand was somewhat muted across most electricity systems in January as the eastern two-thirds of the country experienced extremely mild weather compared to historical averages. The one outlier was the Northwest, which experienced its second month in a row of much-colder-than-normal temperatures. As such, Bonneville Power Administration daily peak demand was very high on many occasions. On January 6, BPA daily peak demand hit 10,943 MW, its highest daily peak demand since March 25, 2012 (11,713 MW). BPA peak demand also exceeded 10,000 MW on six days in January (January 4-6 and January 12-15), equal to the total number of days where demand exceeded 10,000 MW over the past four years combined (2013-2016). In all other electricity systems, daily peak demand fell far short of the top end of their 12-month range and even approached the low end of the 12-month range on individual days during the month.

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