Labor pushes ahead with a controversial capacity market

What is the goal of a capacity electricity market?

You may be forgiven for not sitting through the full press conference last Thursday, where the Albanese government stated Australia would be strengthening their 2030 targets to 43% under the Paris Agreement. However, if you had, around 30 minutes in you would have heard Chris Bowen, the newly appointed Minister for Climate Change and Energy state, “in relation to the short term, State and Territory Ministers agreed with me last week, that we should proceed at haste, at pace, with the capacity mechanism. I asked, on behalf of all Energy Ministers, the Energy Security Board to proceed with that work, at speed, and they are doing that. I am very confident I will be able to get agreement of State and Territory Ministers for a comprehensive capacity mechanism and I’ll have more to say when that work is ready.”

Well that work dropped this morning (20th June) at 7am. They have given those who wish to respond until (25th July) to submit their views on this paper so at pace it shall be. However; given the response following the ESB Post 2025 paper I am not sure that any amount of noise and lobbying from the industry is going to stop this juggernaut from achieving its goal, especially since it is being backed by those generators who have the most to gain from this market. Not only that, but unless there is a big bump in the road, a first look Capacity Mechanism will be in place by 1st July 2025.

What is the goal of this market? – Well in my opinion there is only one reason that this would be encouraged and that is to subsidise coal-fired power stations which have had their financial viability severely questioned by the growing penetration of lower cost renewables within the system. Don’t get me wrong, the longer-term markets have the potential to encourage other faster starting generators onto the market, but this hasn’t really been the case in other capacity markets i.e. Great Britain (GB).

This argument is only further strengthened when looking at how the GB Market ended up achieving their stability, in their high renewable penetrated market, which is from nuclear power which has been guaranteed a strike price of £92.50/MWH or ~$163/MWh. Thus, making any capacity market payment minuscule in comparison to the underpinning of the generation at that rate.

The ESB are arguing, and convincing themselves and the government in the process, that this mechanism is the answer to AEMO’s ISP step change scenario, in which demand increases and coal exits the system. If that is indeed their argument, then they are ultimately stating they cannot efficiently run a system in which coal is not part of the generation mix and unless this is financially managed there will be a ‘disorderly transition.’

The question therefore isn’t will there be a capacity mechanism from July 25, but how centralised or decentralised will the final design be? Will it sit as a Physical Retailer Reliability Obligation – PRRO design, one in which the market determines for itself the level of the required capacity, or do we go wholly down the regulated route with AEMO determining in long term auctions (similar to the GB model which has several T-year auctions) and they forecast demand and supply to determine the required level of capacity and sell these capacity certificates to retailers to meet their requirements.

There is no grey area for the ESB, they have stated openly in the paper they wish for the forecasting and determination of the capacity requirements to be centralised and for AEMO to manage these purchases on behalf of market participants. In essence they would moderate the capacity of these generators, for a cost, at certain times of day or periods of high system stress to allow them to ensure capacity is available to the market operator when needed. End users would then pay for that management of the system and their portion of that capacity.

The other point to note, keenly hidden within the paper is the four yearly review of the Reliability Standard and Settings Review (RSSR) that is about to be undertaken, with significant interest been taken in the Market Cap, especially given the gas price cap is equating to a marginal cost of generation higher than the electricity price cap (Presuming a normal heat rate of 8-12). If the caps are risen for both the caps $300/MWh and spot $15,100/MWh markets as expected, could the requirement of ‘capacity’ in the market become a moot point? Surely the exacerbation of the current situation could be avoided if the gas generators were certain of meeting the cost of generation and you cannot truly believe that a market cannot efficiently run with enough capacity if they are achieving $15,100/MWh or possibly more?

The real key argument which has not been addressed by the paper however, is the idea that aging coal plants are unlikely to be able to ramp in time to fill the gaps between this growing renewable penetration. Therefore, the question really needs to be asked is this the right investment if you really want to transition this grid or should this be put into different technology rather than prolonging the life of unsuitable assets?

Ultimately however the bottom line remains ‘user pays.’ As such any one of the options being floated will be passed through to end users through retailer or network tariffs.

I will let the retailers and generators pick apart the nuances of the paper, but needless to say the government will be pushing ahead with this in some form, the only question will be how much say we will have in the centralisation of the market or not, and therefore how much control retailers will have on the costs of this capacity.

Written by Kate Turner, Senior Manager – Markets, Analytics, and Sustainability

AEMO Suspends the Market

Below is the media release from AEMO after it suspended the National Electricity market at 14:05 today.

AEMO today announced that it has suspended the spot market in all regions of the National Electricity Market (NEM) from 14:05 AEST, under the National Electricity Rules (NER).

AEMO has taken this step because it has become impossible to continue operating the spot market while ensuring a secure and reliable supply of electricity for consumers in accordance with the NER.

The market operator will apply a pre-determined suspension pricing schedule for each NEM region. A compensation regime applies for eligible generators who bid into the market during suspension price periods.

In making the announcement AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman, said the market operator was forced to direct five gigawatts of generation through direct interventions yesterday, and it was no longer possible to reliably operate the spot market or the power system this way.

“In the current situation suspending the market is the best way to ensure a reliable supply of electricity for Australian homes and businesses,” he said.

“The situation in recent days has posed challenges to the entire energy industry, and suspending the market would simplify operations during the significant outages across the energy supply chain.”

Edge wish to reiterate, this is not a physical supply issue. AEMO directed 5GWhs of physical generation into the market. If generators can operate when under direction, they do not have a physical reason to not generate (such as maintenance, overhaul etc), so the reduced availability we are seeing has to be a commercial trading decision to either price volume into higher price bands or to remove availability in the maximum availability bands of their bids. The availability is there, the generators are just not offering it via the spot market.

The market suspension is temporary, and will be reviewed daily for each NEM region. When conditions change, and AEMO is able to resume operating the market under normal rules, it will do so as soon as practical.

Mr Westerman said price caps coupled with significant unplanned outages and supply chain challenges for coal and gas, were leading to generators removing capacity from the market.

He said this was understandable, but with the high number of units that were out of service and the early onset of winter, the reliance on directions has made it impossible to continue normal operation.

The current energy challenge in eastern Australia is the result of several factors – across the interconnected gas and electricity markets. In recent weeks in the electricity market, we have seen:

  • A large number of generation units out of action for planned maintenance – a typical situation in the shoulder seasons.
  • Planned transmission outages.
  • Periods of low wind and solar output.
  • Around 3000 MW of coal fired generation out of action through unplanned events.
  • An early onset of winter – increasing demand for both electricity and gas.

“We are confident today’s actions will deliver the best outcomes for Australian consumers, and as we return to normal conditions, the market based system will once again deliver value to homes and businesses,” he said.

What does it mean for generators and end users.

  • Bidding and dispatch will continue as usual under the market rules.
  • Dispatch instructions will be issued electronically via the automatic generation control system as usual
  • If required AEMO may issue dispatch instructions in any other form that is practical in the circumstances.
  • Spot prices and FCAS prices in a suspended region continue to be set in accordance with NEM rules or under the Market Suspension Pricing Schedule.

The Market Suspension Pricing Schedule is published weekly by AEMO and contains prices 14 days ahead.

The market will continue to operate under the Market Suspension Pricing Schedule until the Market operator determines the market is able to return to normal conditions and the suspension is revoked.

Article by Alex Driscoll, Senior Manager – Markets, Trading, and Advisory

Drivers behind potential load shedding

In the energy market, probably not unlike most complex markets / industries, we never let the truth stand in the way of a good mainstream news story. So much so, at Edge we struggle to watch mainstream news!

Yesterday Edge highlighted that a tight supply balance was not the key driver for the unprecedented high prices occurring in the spot and contract markets.

As previously outlined, generators bidding behaviour is playing a pivotal role, lifting the average price in the spot market as their spot traders shift volume into higher price bands. This pushed spot prices so high that on Sunday the market reached the cumulative price threshold (CPT). This means that the sum of spot prices in a seven-day period hit a level which caused AEMO to intervene and cap prices until the market returns below this threshold.

As has been widely discussed on Sunday evening, AEMO stepped in and controlled the spot price once the sum of the previous 2,016 (7 days) trading intervals equalled the cumulative total of $1,359,000. The cumulative CPT is equivalent to an average price of $674.16/MWh for the seven-day period.

During market intervention, spot prices in the relevant region are capped at $300/MWh.  This commenced at 6.55pm on Sunday night in Queensland and will continue until the 7-day average drops below the CPT. Once this is achieved the CPT remains on foot until at least 04:00 the next trading day.

Since Queensland hit the cap on Sunday, we have now seen every mainland region in the National Electricity Market (NEM) also hit the CPT. As at publication, intervention pricing is currently enacted in all of these regions (QLD, NSW, VIC, and SA). Tasmania is currently under threat also.

During market intervention the maximum spot price can only reach $300/MWh (there is also a floor of -$300/MWh). $300/MWh is currently lower than the short run marginal cost (SRMC) of many gas generators when priced against the current gas price, which is also currently capped by AEMO (at $40/GJ).

A consequence of capping these markets is higher priced generation withdraws from the electricity market, as an example gas generator have a Short Run Marginal Cost (SRMC) of generation of roughly $400/MWh based on a fuel cost of $40/GJ, but with a cap of $300/MWh on the electricity generated it results in generators removing their availability from the market which in turn results in regional availability dropping. Hence subsequent threats of power outages and the potential requirement for load shedding.  It’s a case of the market being more under threat from commercial drivers than physical drivers.

The commercial dynamics of the current market create a perceived lack of availability in the market and leads to generators looking to other (non-capped) revenue streams for their generation stack. This is precisely what occurred over Monday with 607MW of availability being removed from QLD available generation, and 930MW removed from NSW. The drop in dispatchable generation resulted in AEMO publishing a Lack of Reserve (LOR) forecast and requests by AEMO for a market response. Rather than this call being answered, generators held firm and did not place generation back into the traditional bid stacks.  Across Monday the LOR dropped further as more generation disappeared into the ancillary market and as we approached the evening peak AEMO called an LOR3, which resulted in AEMO also calling on Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) providers to fill the availability gap.

Overnight AEMO’s action on calling RERT prevented load shedding, however this may not be the case in NSW tonight where 590MW of load is forecast to be interrupted at 19:00. If there is insufficient support under RERT to compensate for this supply shortage, we could see load shedding.

With all mainland NEM regions currently operating under the CPT we expect to see more market intervention, and those generators exposed to a capped gas price removing volume out of the market as electricity prices are capped at levels below their SRMC. This is likely to see AEMO needing to intervene in other regions, invoking RERT to source additional availability, or failing that load shedding.

Article by Alex Driscoll and Stacey Vacher.

High electricity prices – What’s really driving them?

Written by Alex Driscoll, Senior Manager – Markets, Trading, and Advisory

In recent weeks we have seen a rapid increase in the cost of electricity both in Queensland (“QLD”) and New South Wales (“NSW”).

The chart shows how spot prices (light blue line) and forward prices in QLD have increased considerably since mid-2021. Most notably, we’ve seen frightening increases since mid May 2022.

The question is, what is really driving these unprecedented high prices?

Underlying fuel costs are playing their role, as we’ve seen significant increases in the cost of gas and coal resulting from the Ukraine crisis. Recent weather conditions on the east coast of Australia have also adversely impacted coal deliveries.

Analysis of the supply / demand balance and the bidding behaviour of participants is also in focus. Whilst underlying fuel prices have had a part to play, trading behaviour appears to be playing a leading role in the most recent electricity price increases. At a high level, the structure of the bid stack is a key driver to volatility occurring in QLD and NSW over the past few weeks.

Having analysed the market Edge2020 have found that small changes in the supply / demand balance coupled with strategic bidding behaviour has had a significant impact on spot prices.  Edge2020’s analysis shows that as solar generation diminishes the market power and influence on the spot price shifts from intermittent generation such as solar, to thermal generators such as gas-fired and coal fired generation.  With surplus availability of generation across the states, high demand or scarcity of supply are not the key drivers for the higher prices.

Both QLD and NSW bid stacks reflect the recent strategic bidding of generators in these regions. The bid stacks show how peaking plant are dispatching units at elevated prices, well above levels supported by inflated gas prices. Bid stacks also indicate that coal fired generation is not operating at full capacity. In the absence of news to the contrary, we can assume that output has been restricted for commercial reasons rather than technical limitations. Noting that no re-bids with technical limitations were published during the period analysed.

As spot market volatility has increased, as to have prices across the forward market, with uncertainty and risk having been priced in significantly. Views on future fundamentals remain broad, resulting in differing strategies between forward traders. Whilst spot traders successfully maintain unprecedented volatility in spot prices however, it’s difficult for forward traders to sell into this market. Once the opportunity presents to do so, we could see significant spreads and chunky declines in forward pricing.

 

 

Renewables – cheapest generation in Australia

On Friday, CSIRO released a draft of its latest annual GenCost report. The report is used by AEMO for some of its inputs and assumptions in their publications such as the ISP and the ESOO. The report calculates the expected levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from a range of generation technologies.

In this year’s report, wind and solar continue to be Australia’s cheapest generation technologies. The report also explores the impact of storage on wind and solar, with the addition of batteries, wind and solar still outperform coal and gas.

The 2021-22 GenCost report estimates solar has a levelled cost of between $44 to $65/MWh and wind costs range between $45 to $57/MWh. The large range in costs is a direct relationship between the scale of the projects.

The CSIRO estimate to build a new baseload coal-fired power station would result in a LCOE of up to $118/MWh and gas is not far behind at $111/MWh. For units with a lower utilisation rate compared to a baseload unit, the LCOE would be significantly higher.

The report also looked into the future and predicts how the cost of generation technologies will change. It is likely the cost of coal and gas technologies will remain constants, in my view they will increase as equipment costs increase, access to specialist skilled labour decreases and capacity factors drop. On the other hand, the CSIRO predicts solar, wind, batteries etc will continue to drop in price resulting in lower LCOE into the future.

With a rapidly changing energy landscape, the CSIRO have also looked at the cost of integrating intermittent generation with storage and grid support services. The CSIRO predicts the integration of technologies and services will add as little as $10/MWh to the LCOE of the generation asset alone. Even with this integration, renewable as considerably cheaper than coal or gas-fired generation.

The study also found if Australia goes down the “gas led” recovery it is highly dependent on the cost of gas. There is a slim chance that gas can compete with renewables but only if gas prices are below $6/GJ and the gas-fired generator has a capacity factor of 80% or above.

If any of the existing coal-fired generators go down the track of installing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) it will make them less competitive leading to lower capacity factors. CCS is predicted to increase the LCOE of between $162 and $216/MWh. If the technology is used on Gas fired assets it is likely to increase the LCOE to between $107 and $170MWh.

Stepping outside conventional technologies, the CSIRO would envisage if Australia went down the nuclear path it would result in the highest LCOE of any generation technology.

With the move to a hydrogen economy, the CSIRO have also included the cost of electrolysers, while expensive now the expectation is that they will drop in price by 75% over the next 10 years and by up to 90% by 2050.

Although the GenCost report is currently out for stakeholder consultation it is an interesting view into the future of the Australian energy market.

Federal Government King Review

Recently the Australian Government released findings of the King Review, accepting 21 of 26 recommendations to incentivise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions abatement from industry.

The focus of the Expert Panel review was the development of rules to credit emissions reductions below Safeguard Mechanism baselines. Credits created under the proposed mechanism could be used to meet compliance obligations under the Safeguard Mechanism.

The panel recommended producing new credits generated under the scheme, known as Safeguard Mechanism Credits (SMCs). The SMCs would be different to the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) offsets. SMCs would be for transformative abatement projects based on changes in emissions intensity rather than absolute emissions.

The proposed crediting mechanism would be similar to a baseline and credit framework scheme employed under current legislation however the baseline component of the framework does not account for absolute emission increases. The proposed mechanism will separate an emissions intensity crediting baseline that is focused on ‘transformative’ projects. The new credits will have lower environmental integrity due to the lower threshold for creation of credits for potential abatement projects. The creation of these credits will result in a two speed carbon price.

The Review observations that SMCs could be purchased at a price set by the market or at a fixed price. The price may also be linked to the existing ACCU price. As a result, lower quality SMCs would be expected to trade at a discount to ACCUs.

The Review saw the potential for LGCs to increasingly be considered for use in carbon markets due to their implicit carbon abatement value. It is not proposed to link LGCs in the new scheme.

Future of Contract Markets and the Baseload Swap

It is no surprise, when I say the National Electricity Market (NEM) is going through a vast transition and transformation, with an ever-increasing penetration of renewable generation, in the form of both utility scale renewable generation and household installations.

The world as we know is also battling the global pandemic that is Coronavirus. This has had a significant impact on people and their livelihoods and health.  along with a significant impact on energy markets around the globe. To top it all off, energy markets have had to endure a supply price war recently, between OPEC’s unelected leader, Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC oil producer, Russia.

With a rapidly evolving and ever-changing energy landscape, what should our contract markets look like? Are the current products fit for purpose or offer value in an energy landscape like the NEM? As a generator, the days of capturing value and running flat out all hours of the day, are indeed starting to dwindle, with quick, nimble, and easily dispatchable fast-start generation likely to excel in the near to longer-term landscape. Take South Australia (SA) as a good example, as to the success of fast-start plant. On the 04/04/2020 at 12:00pm, the 5 minute spot price was down at -$1,000/MWh, which is where it stayed the majority of the morning, due to low demand and strong generation, trying to send megawatts into Victoria (VIC), maxing out the interconnector. Shortly after that, at 12:20pm, prices spiked to above $300/MWh for the next 30 to 40 minutes or so, with fast-start gas generation swooping in and capturing this short-term high price period.

If this type of generation is the key to success in this new look NEM that we operate in, where fast-start, short burst generation is taking its place to complement the intermittent renewable generation in wind and solar, utility or household, that continues to penetrate the market, why are our contract markets continuing to predominantly offer baseload swaps?

A baseload swap is a contract for energy, say 5 MW for $70/MWh, for a defined period, for a month, a quarter, a calendar, or financial year. The way a swap works is the $60/MWh becomes the strike price in which the seller of the swap pays the floating price (the price of the underlying wholesale product which is electricity in this instance) and the buyer pays the fixed $70/MWh.

Say you have contracted a baseload swap for 5 MW for the entire calendar year of 2020, this would mean that for every half hour (with electricity settling every half hour as per the underlying wholesale market settlement regime in the NEM), of the entire 2020 calendar year, the buyer will pay the seller $70/MWh, and the seller will pay the buyer the underlying wholesale or spot price. For example, say this morning the wholesale or spot price for electricity for the half hour ending period of 9:30am was $40/MWh; this would result in the buyer paying the seller $70/MWh for 5 MW, whilst the seller would pay the buyer $40/MWh for 5 MW, resulting in a $30/MWh contract for difference (CFD) payment going from the buyer to the seller.

However, think about this, the baseload swap is exactly that, baseload. So, a contract for calendar year 2020 means you are locked into that same position (unless you sell out of the position) 24 hrs, 365 days.

So, do baseload contracts offer appropriate value anymore, in a market which are short-lived upward volatility and recently longer periods of downward volatility?

Mid last month, Snowy Hydro struck a contract defined as a ‘super-peak’ swap, which will cover what has been defined as the “super peak” periods of the day, generally morning and evening peak usage when solar is ramping up or down. The trade was brokered through an over-the-counter (OTC) trading hub operated by Renewable Energy Hub, and it is believed, similar deals will be a gateway to funding and bringing into the market technology such as batteries and demand-response into the energy markets.

Snowy Hydro has been procuring renewable PPA’s for a while, through wind and solar generation, including the 90 MW it procured from the Sebastopol Solar Farm in NSW. They are looking to use the renewable generation and back it with their significant hydro fleet, to sell a new range of products to its customers.

With wholesale energy prices reducing significantly since September 2019, and the overabundance of generation in states such as QLD and SA, and with the rapid introduction of new technology, it is likely a significant number of customers will choose to take more wholesale/spot price exposure, rather than contracting ahead of time.,

This fuels the argument for the need to have more flexible and robust products, ones that are for particular trading intervals, perhaps in the day, day-ahead products, week-ahead products, or perhaps more products like Snowy’s ‘super peak’ product?

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

What’s Oil got to do with it?

There is no doubt that energy markets and the energy industry itself are rapidly evolving and moving away from fossil fuels. The evolution of energy seems to be coming, and only coming faster given this tumultuous time the people and countries across the world have endured. Lets start with oil; Australian’s across the nation are very aware of the recent global oil price crash to new historic levels, particularly when it is reported in the news headlines that Australian’s are seeing almost 15-year lows at the petrol bowser. The impact of the recent oil price crash however does not stop at the bowser, it has and will continue to have significant impacts on energy markets across the globe including in Australia.

Oil prices have been hit recently due to two major events; one being the global epidemic of COVID-19, resulting in a significant reduction in demand for oil across the globe. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) April 2020 reports an expected drop in demand of global oil of 9.3 million barrels(mb)/day year on year for 2020, with April 2020 demand estimated to be lower than 2019’s demand by 29 mb/day. The second impact to oil markets has been the oil price and supply war between OPEC’s pseudo leader Saudia Arabia and non-OPEC nation, Russia, two of the largest global oil exporters. Saudi Arabia and Russia could not agree levels of supply, leading to Saudia Arabia flooding the market with oil and prices, both spot and futures, reaching new lows. The quarrel between the two global oil market power-houses and the impacts of the COVID-19 on demand for oil has led to the historical event where the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil price index fell into negative price territory, with May 2020 future prices settling at -USD$37.63/barrel on the 20/04/2020, after reaching a low of -USD$40.32/barrel earlier that day.

The major oil index, WTI, saw futures prices for June 2020 contracts settling at around USD$17/barrel on the 29/04/2020, whilst Brent Crude, another major oil index also felt the pain of slowing demand, with prices dropping below USD$20/barrel on the 27/04/2020. But the impact of tumbling oil prices reaches far and wide, particularly here in Australia. Australia has a booming natural gas industry and was the largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) as of January 2020. A significant number of gas sales agreements are linked to the crude oil indices, with Australian gas companies feeling the hurt given the tumble in oil prices. Brent Crude oil futures for June 2020 contracts settled at around USD$24/barrel on the 29/04/2020. At these prices, the likes of Santos and Oil Search will be hurting given both flagged a cashflow breakeven oil price of ~USD$25-29/barrel, and USD$32-33/barrel, respectively. Demand for natural gas in international markets has also tumbled, and due to the linkage between oil prices and gas contracts, spot contract prices have shifted down, with June 2020 contracts settling at AUD$2.87/GJ (~USD$1.88/GJ) as of the 30/04/2020, again a far reach from prices seen in November 2019 of ~AUD$7.30/GJ (~USD$5/GJ).

Further impacts of the oil market crash on gas markets has been cheaper domestic gas prices for consumers. Queensland, the largest gas extractor and exporter on the east coast has seen prices in its short-term trading market (STTM) in Brisbane reach as low as AUD$2.31/GJ in March 2020, a significant drop from AUD$9-11/GJ we witnessed the same in 2019. Other energy commodities have also seen a decline off the back of the oil price tumble, including thermal coal. As stated above, with gas prices domestically and internationally falling away, thermal coal prices have come off due to energy users opting for cheaper fuel sources such as oil and gas. Spot thermal coal contracts for the May 2020 settled at USD$52.35/metric ton(mt) on 30/04/2020, far softer than spot prices a year ago at ~USD$90/mt.

This brings us to the all-important energy market and commodity, electricity, which with all the above combined has seen electricity prices fall off a cliff. The National Electricity Market (NEM) in the last few years has been on a renewable power growth spurt. Queensland for instance has the highest penetration of large scale solar generation of approximately ~2,400 MW and a significant penetration of rooftop solar reaching ~2,100 MW, combine them together and on a mild April day in 2020, you have almost 2 thirds of maximum demand. With renewable energy displacing thermal/fossil fuels, off the back of reducing pricing for the technology and subsidies in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs), combined with both far cheaper gas prices allowing gas plant to bid in and capture price spikes due to their fast-start and intermittent operating capabilities, and reduced demand for electricity due to the impact of COVID-19 with business and industry operating skeletally, electricity prices continue to sit at prices not witnessed since 2016.

All the above has been caused by two events, both significant to the global economy, and the energy industry in their own rights. One thing is for sure, the events have helped push the electricity market on the East Coast of Australia into a new direction far quicker than it may have if the two COVID-19 and the oil price crash did not occur. We are seeing new market design concepts (ie. capacity markets, two-sided markets) and new contract market products (ie. super-peak swap) coming to light, that give way to new technologies and greater competition. The abundance of natural gas in Australia is affordable for households for heating and is finally being utilised as the ‘transition’ or bridging fuel it was always pegged as, to renewable energy in the wholesale market. One thing is for certain, change is afoot, and it definitely has me excited.

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

History making Oil price – what it means for Energy in Australia

Overnight the major oil price index, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Crude Oil Index fell from trading at USD$20.97/barrel to enter negative price territory for the first time in history, with May 2020 future prices settling at -USD$37.63/barrel on the 20/04/2020, after reaching a low of -USD$40.32/barrel. The event was sparked off the back of increasing storage concerns given excess supply build-up brought on by suppressed demand as a result of COVID-19. The recent announcement by OPEC + to cut demand by 9.7 million barrels a day in May and June months, and the additional 5 million barrels per day to be cut by other nations outside of OPEC and Russia, including the US, Canada and Brazil has done little to quash concerns of an oil supply glut with consultancy firm Rystad Energy estimating demand will be cut by 27 million barrels a day in April and 20 million into May as a result of COVID-19’s impact on global usage.

The market for WTI Crude Oil entered con-tango yesterday (20/04) with spot prices significantly lower than future prices for the commodity, however today (21/04) it has bounced back breaching positive price territory sitting above USD$1.00/barrel at 3:30pm (EST). Brent Crude Oil prices however remained relatively static on the 20/04, ending the day in the mid $USD20/barrel range at USD$26.04/barrel, despite the traditional correlation of trading between WTI and Brent Crude oil prices. So why is the oil price so important to Australia, well as Edge has previously pointed out in the past, a significant number of long-term gas deals are linked to an oil price index, likely Brent but also WTI. This has huge ramifications for Australia who became the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as of January 2020 this year, a commodity and industry which also contributes massively to the Australian economy.

With LNG sales effectively hitched to oil prices, I can only imagine what the contract price for some of the underpinning investment and long-term contracts of domestic and international gas looks like! We have witnessed that domestic gas prices across the NEM and international LNG Spot market prices have both taken a dive off the back of the recent oil price and supply war and the impacts to demand from COVID-19. Currently the ACCC has calculated LNG netback contract prices of gas to the Wallumbilla Hub (domestic gas hub connecting gas from QLD to southern states) at prices of AUD$3.73/GJ and AUD$3.60/GJ for April and May 2020, the cheapest price the commodity has been in the last 4 years, with future prices looking likely to hit $3/GJ. Currently the JKM (Japan Korea Marker) spot LNG market index for Asia – which is a significant demand hub for Australian spot LNG cargoes – is depicting prices of AUD$3.39/GJ for future contracts for June 2020 as of 20/04/202, however given the recent negative price event in international oil prices it is likely these future contract prices could fall further.

With LNG markers like the JKM heavily correlated to movement of oil prices it is likely we will not see a return to the AUD $8/GJ JKM Swap price for some time. The oil price slump is also expected to impact investment decisions, as once again the gas industry and heavily correlated to global oil prices. Majority of the domestic gas players including Oil Search and Senex Energy are gearing up for extended periods of reduced returns and cheaper gas prices due to a significant number of gas sales contracts linked to the Brent Crude oil index. Oil Search indicated to the market its break-even oil price range of USD$32-33/barrel, without funding growth projects, well above the current future oil contract prices; whist Senex Energy’s Chief, Ian Davies stated that “Demand has fallen off a cliff,” and that they were “planning for fairly soft prices for a while.” Even the likes of Santos flagged they are aiming for a free-cash flow break-even oil price of USD$25/barrel in 2020, however needs a price of USD$60/barrel to fund new growth projects, which could see the Narrabri project in jeopardy.

What is incredible to see is investment decisions like Arrow Energy’s Surat Gas Project still going ahead even when energy markets are entering unchartered territory. Arrow Energy’s joint owners, Shell and PetroChina have finally given the go ahead to the $10 billion development of Arrow’s vast gas resources located southern Queensland’s Surat basin, sanctioning the commencement of phase 1 of the Surat Gas Project on 17 April 2020. Arrow’s joint owners have decided to push forward with the expansion despite the recent downturn in oil and gas prices felt across the globe due in part to the COVID-19 outbreak and the recent oil price war. The Surat Gas Project is expected to bring on 90 billion cubic feet (~95 PJ) of gas a year, with 600 phase one wells set for construction this year with first gas expected in 2021, according to Arrow’s announcement.

The Surat Gas Project also comprises some big steps for the industry, with the deal underpinned by significant infrastructure collaborations and gas sales agreements which will see Arrow gas compressed and sent to market via Shell’s existing QGC infrastructure (including existing gas and water processing, treatment and transportation infrastructure). Good news for these gas volumes is that part will be allocated for sale into the domestic wholesale gas markets on Australia’s east coast, and part will be allocated to be converted to LNG via QCLNG’s liquified natural gas infrastructure located on Curtis Island, near Gladstone port. This is welcomed news with manufacturing firms across the east coast screaming for further domestic gas reserves to be developed in order to keep domestic gas prices at reasonable levels and increasingly de-linked from international LNG prices and indexes, such as the Japan Korea Marker (JKM).

In addition, it was also announced the Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest-backed LNG import terminal located at Port Kembla in NSW has been given the tick of approval by the NSW State Government. The Australian Industrial Energy venture which is co-backed by the Japanese firm Marubeni and global trading shop JERA in continuing forward with plans to build and operate the Port Kembla import terminal with a likely final investment decision expected later this year and first gas imports in 2022, with customers and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) reporting expected shortfalls of the commodity in regions such as Victoria and New South Wales could come as early as 2023, with shortfalls especially apparent into and beyond 2024.  

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

Infigen want an Operating Reserve Market

Infigen have submitted a letter to the Australian Energy Market Commission’s Chairman requesting the introduction of an Operating Reserves and Fast Frequency Response rule change. Infigen state in their letter that this market proposal they have put forward would “relatively simple to implement and would provide added confidence that sufficient resources to respond to unexpected changes in supply or demand would be available”, as stated in their letter.

Most importantly, Infigen have stated a rule change such as this would remove the reliance on and provide an alternative to the RERT (Reliability and Emergency Response Trader) procurement and contracts of which cost consumers $34.5 million, and avoid further intervention in the market by the market operator. Infigen believe that a “free-rider” problem may occur under tight capacity scenarios in the market increased risks of random government interventions to avoid adverse market and operational outcomes.

As such, they believe “marginal value of incremental capacity is by definition very high and delivers considerable benefits to the entire market’” calling out that raising the market price cap does not solve the issue with systemic risk to portfolios/participants caught short due to plant outages or network failures. Instead, Infigen have called for the introduction of a Operating Reserves market for near term to avoid increasing the market price cap and increase the reliability and security of supply to consumers.

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.