AER’s State of the Energy Market in 2023

The AER released their annual ‘State of the Energy Market’ report last Thursday for 2023 for Australia’s electricity and gas markets. This included some relatively good news as the energy system in 2023 has “experienced fewer shocks and better outcomes than in 2022”. The 2023 wholesale electricity market prices have declined from the record prices in 2022, largely due to the government interventions in the coal and gas markets. Despite the decline, prices remain high by historical standards.

A media release by the AER accompanying the report stated, “Increases in wholesale energy prices were evident in retail prices, with estimated electricity bills rising between 9% and 20% in all NEM jurisdictions in 2022-23, impacting households already experiencing broader cost-of-living pressures. “

The report highlighted the pressures for investment in renewables to permit the retirement of coal generation. The report also commented on Liddell’s retirement in April 2023 going smoothly due to the new renewable generation and recent favourable market conditions.

The transition to new energy infrastructure faces several challenges:

  • The vast scale and required coordination of investments.
  • Rising costs in the infrastructure sector.
  • The need for community engagement in infrastructure planning and development.

The report highlighted the government involvement and support in investments including joint initiatives between Australia Government and state and territory governments.

The dynamic between electricity and gas markets is increasingly interconnected. As regions shift from gas demand to electricity demand (like replacing gas heating with electric air conditioning), it’s anticipated that pressure on gas markets will decrease, while electricity demand will surge. Factors like electric vehicle adoption will further influence electricity demand and the necessity for new infrastructure.

Furthermore, planning will now also factor in emissions reduction to serve the long-term interests of energy consumers, integrating it with other goals such as price, reliability, and supply security.

An interesting comment was made in the report executive summary highlighting concerns in the industry surrounding issues of competition in the market and market power outlined below.

“Our concerns are around the reduced liquidity of exchange-traded hedging products, the declining number of clearing service providers for electricity derivatives, and the levels of concentration of ownership of flexible generation capacity, particularly in NSW and Victoria. The AER’s anticipated new powers in relation to contract market monitoring will allow us to better monitor participant behaviour and gain sharper insights on issues of competition and market power.”

AEMO adds to the spooking of the Energy Market post Liddell Shutdown

Energy Market - AEMO _ Liddell Shutdown

On Thursday (25th May 2023) AEMO released their Scheduling Error notification (incident number 54) confirming they had incorrectly scheduled three of the Liddell units into one of their systems, post the Liddell shutdown, which caused price spikes across the NEM and forwards market on the morning of 1st May 2023.

As has been widely documented the last three Liddell units came offline on the 24th of April (Unit 4), 26th April (unit 2) and finally unit 1 on the 28th of April. This should have flowed through to the systems within the AEMO dispatch engines, however due to an error this was not the case, and the market was affected by the error between midnight and midday on the 1st of May 2023.

The error was cause by a mismatch of data used within the systems which feed the NEMDE (NEM Dispatch Engine) used by AEMO, whereby one part of the system removed the units from 00:01 on the 1st May. However, a separate part of the NEMDE’s data feed system, which controls the constraints still included the Liddell units at their “initial values” i.e. 500MW, not their real value of zero.

When the equations within the constraint tried to equalise, there was a “drop” of 1500MW on one side of the equation from the first interval on the 1st May 2023.

To rectify this AEMO reduced flow coming from Victoria into NSW and around 173MW of generation was dispatched down.

Prices reacted as expected with 6 periods between midnight and 6am having prices between $2,771.58/MWh and $2,964.04/MWh and increasing the daily average price by around 30% to an average of $288.86.

With a marketplace reacting to every cough of a power station, especially in the days following the Liddell closure the added constraint was enough to also strengthen the forwards market with the Q323 close price rising $5.50/MWh on the day in comparison to the day before across QLD, Vic and NSW and even SA was affected with an $8/MWh increase on the previous days close.

This strength continued into the next few weeks as outages came into the mix, a tube leak delaying the return to service of Bayswater 2 to the 3rd May, Kogan Creek, Eraring 2 and Tarong taking outages, the return of Callide being delayed and an unexpected interest rate hikes putting additional pressure on the market. Speculators were quick to act trading the spread between states thus increasing prices across the NEM.

This reactionary sentiment is one we feel will remain for a while, with the spot market quickly correcting however the futures continue to hold value down the curve.

NSW South West Renewable Energy Zone

Street lights at night

Last Friday, the NSW government released their draft declaration for the South West Renewable Energy Zone (SW REZ) access scheme to the public. This is one of five REZs which have been identified within NSW as part of the NSW governments Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. The schemes are overseeing the volume of projects which will be granted to the transmission within these zones and co-ordinate the network and generation investments into the areas.

The SW zone is based towards the Victorian border and the proposed connection point would be in the Dinawan Substation. The access standards are very similar to those already proposed in April for the states Central-West Orana (CWO) region.

With the CWO attracting more than $35billion worth of proposed projects the SW REZ is hoping to attract significant investment for its 2.5GW transfer capacity, noting the location will not allow for offshore wind and as much Hydrogen investment as that seen in the CWO.

The NSW government has stated that the aim of the declaration is that “An access scheme provides an opportunity to control the connection of projects to the REZ. In the case of the South West, the proposed access scheme triggers the application of modifications to the National Electricity Rules (NER) open access arrangements as they apply to the access right network.”

The access granted projects will benefit from significant network upgrades including potential upgrades to the Project Energy Connect (PEC) interconnector which is being developed at the moment and is to run between SA (Robertstown) and NSW (Wagga Wagga), upgrades to the HumeLink which would connect that Wagga Wagga substation with Snowy Hydro and its increasing capacity and further strengthen the investment case for the proposed Victoria-NSW interconnector (VNI West). The latter is currently within the RIT-T (Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission) process.

These proposals will surely give investors’ confidence in providing the required project certification to be granted the access to that zone. They must not only show feasibility and prepare to sign onto the standards set out in this proposition, but must ensure they can manage voltage, frequency especially which there are potential disruptions within the system. However, the rewards of participating in a well-funded, transmission rich environment which has certainty of curtailment risk for the access rights holders, are surely going to outweigh the paper-work process of being accepted and given the over subscription of the CWO, you can imagine a similar uptake in this round.

The consultation for the South West Renewable Energy Zone (SW REZ) access scheme is closing on the 15th May 2023.

Next test in NSW for the transition to renewables

Hand turning off light switch

For over eight years, there has been talk of AGL shutting down Liddell power station. Finally, this will become reality today, with the next Liddell unit being shut down.

Liddell Unit 4 will be shut down today, followed by Units 1 and 4 over the next 10 days. The retirement of Liddell power station will make 10% of NSW’s availability being bid unavailable.

It would be expected that the permanent closure of 10% of NSW’s electricity generation would put the grid at risk and lead to higher electricity prices.

AEMO has alleviated market concerns by saying, “Supply is not at risk”. However, Edge2020 is not ruling out an upward pressure on prices due to a shock to the market, despite the market knowing the Liddell units would be shut down for many years.

The retirement of Liddell power station is the next big step for NSW as the state transitions from scheduled coal-fired generation to intermittent renewable energy and storage.

While the market has known about the retirement of the Liddell power station for years, Edge2020 expects the market to be firm on the reality of the closures. Spot electricity and forward prices in NSW and Queensland may increase in the short term; however, they will settle over time.

Following the retirement of the Liddell units, availability will still be relatively high in NSW. The capacity factors of the remaining coal-fired units will increase, and gas will fill the remaining gaps. As a result of this and generation from neighbouring regions, it is unlikely that the NSW region will incur a significant drop in availability resulting in a Lack of Reserve (LOR) notice from AEMO.

AEMO confirmed in February that the closure of the Liddell units would not breach the reliability standard; however, AEMO’s latest reliability report has raised concerns that reliability risks remain in NSW. AEMO’s biggest reliability concern has been the delayed delivery of Snowy Hydro’s Kurri Kurri gas-fired generator. The Kurri Kurri gas-fired generator has been delayed by 12 months. AGL has confirmed AEMO has not approached them regarding reliability levels following the closure.

Further to alleviate the availability and reliability concerns of the market as we approach to summer is the news that Energy Australia will have the 300MW Tallawarra B gas-fired generator online in December. Additionally, NSW imports additional electricity from Queensland and Victoria via the interconnectors.

AGL has plans to repurpose the Liddell site into a clean energy hub which will include a 250MW battery with room for expansion that could be linked to a nearby pumped hydro project.

After the closure of Liddell 4 on April 19th, followed by Unit 2 six days later, and then finally Unit 1 on April 29th, AGL will start demolition in early 2024.

The next few weeks will be an interesting time in the industry, particularly for NSW politics and the wider NEM. Edge2020 will monitor the market and provide updates over the next few weeks as the final unit retires.

Renewable energy storage road map released

Edge 2020 Brisbane City

The CSIRO released its Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap at the end of March 2023.

Their modelling suggested that while Australia leads the world in solar generation, and we have reduced emissions significantly, there is still a big task ahead of the country if we are to meet net zero emission targets and maintain affordable and reliable energy to end users. The CSIRO Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap report showed Australia will need significant amounts of storage to meet the transition to renewables.

Storage is the key to integrating renewable energy into the grid and reducing the dependency on coal and gas fired generation. Currently the electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind and solar is intermittent and is not easily dispatched into the grid when it is most needed. Storage allows the renewable energy to be generated when the natural resources are high and dispatching it into the grid when the electricity is needed.

Dispatchable storage is currently available in the grid in the form of pump storage hydro, such as Wivenhoe power station in Queensland and Tumut 3 in NSW. There are also various battery installations located across the NEM.

The dispatch of renewable energy may require different storage technologies to best suit an evolving NEM. Storage comes in various forms from electrochemical storage such as batteries, mechanical storage such as hydro, chemical storage and thermal storage. Each technology has its pros and cons, but a combination of technologies is likely to be required to meet the real time storage volumes and timings of the NEM.

For many years pumped hydro has been seen by governments as the solution to Australia’s energy storage needs, but timing is the limiting factor in this solution.

To enable the transition from coal and gas fired generation to renewables, storage is required now. On a typical day we have excess solar generation resulting in negative spot prices, however over the evening peak as demand increases the supply of renewable drops of coal and gas provide the generation to meet demand. Thermal generation is normally dispatched at prices higher than the cost of renewables resulting in higher spot prices. If storage could be used efficiently the solar energy produced during daylight hours could be used over the evening peak and into the evening resulting in lower electricity prices.

As coal fired generation retires between 2023 and 2035, new dispatchable generation needs to be brought online, the CSIRO report states, development timelines need to be accelerated to bring more projects online by 2030.

Pump storage hydro typically has a lead time of 10 years so either development timelines need to be accelerated or different storage technologies need to be employed in the meantime.

CSIRO chief executive said “there was a need for a “massive increase” in storage capacity to achieve the transition to net zero, with estimates of 11 to 14 gigawatts of additional storage capacity by 2030 alone.

2030 is not far away, to meet the transition targets should industry be focusing on storage rather than generation? Is storage an opportunity to utilise existing infrastructure like old mine pits for pump storage hydro or repurpose retiring thermal power station sites as storage hubs?

Solar and wind are the big losers in latest AEMO MLF forecasts

woman on a windy day

As the electricity market evolves the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) makes assessments of the changing landscape from a transmission and security of supply perspective.

Recently AEMO released its final assessment of Marginal Loss Factors (MLFs). MLF determine how much energy is lost between the generator and the region reference node in each state.

In this next round of MLFs many of the big losers are the intermittent generators. Changes to the grid and the closure of thermal generators have had a detrimental impact on wind and solar farms. Lower MLF’s impact the amount of revenue generators can make.

The final MLF numbers are not as bad as what was published in AEMO draft report providing some positive news for wind and solar developers. Since the draft report new modelling has included the delayed return to service of the Callide C units.

The primary driver for changes in the new MLF forecasts has been changes in availability due to the closure of Liddell, revised return to service dates for Callide C, revised demand forecasts and the increased penetration of solar and wind generation into the grid.

Recent transmission line work has resulted in an increased capacity between Queensland and NSW which means increased flows from Queensland which results in wind and solar projects located in the north of NSW being constrained.

MLF generally gets worse for generators at the end of a long transmission lines, this has resulted in generation in northern NSW being the big loser this year. Some solar farms in the New England region have dropped by over 3%.

While a 3% fall sounds bad, it is not as bad as the MLF for Moree, a 57MW solar farm in western NSW which loses over 20% of its generation by the time it gets to the regional reference node. Previously Moree solar farm had an MLF of 0.8275, this year it is 0.7977.

The return to service of Callide C significantly impacted solar farms in central Queensland, however the delayed return to service has lessened the impact. Daydream, Collinsville, Kidston, and Moura are some of the solar farms most impacted by the new MLFs.

So what does the mean to end users? While we are seeing a rapid increase in renewable generation, the location of this generation is important to the success of a project. If we use the example of Moree where over 20% of the renewable generation does not reach the market then the question has to be, was it built in the correct part of the grid. Many people focus on the size of the project while the volume of electricity produced needs to be of greater importance. Unfavourable MLF will impact the success of the project, will reduce the renewable energy available to the market and potential can leave end users with less renewable energy than what they had signed up for.

Coal price caps result in high compensation but lower forward prices

Last week reports emerged that one coal fired power station could receive up to $450M in federal compensation as a result of the price cap on coal. Under the new legislation, coal fired generators are compensated for the cost of coal they have locked in at prices above the $125/t cap.

The coal price cap is likely to be higher than the coal currently locked in by many coal fired power stations, however some power stations are exposed to higher priced coal. Under the coal price cap mechanism, generators must bid into the market at a price inline with coal procured below the coal price cap. Generators that are exposed to coal prices above the coal price cap will not be able to dispatch their unit unless generating uneconomically. The compensation is designed to level the playing field allowing the units with fuel costs above the coal cap to continue to supply power and assist in system security.

Based on the current price of coal, compensation for Queensland’s Gladstone power station could reach $450m. The compensation will be split between the Queensland and federal governments on a 50/50 basis while the $125/t coal price cap is in place. The total compensation amount will vary depending on the amount of coal procured at prices above $125/t.

Many may argue that generators with high costs should be forced up the bid stack and not be compensated for high fuel costs. While stations like Gladstone may not have the benefit of low coal prices the station is currently crucial to system security in Queensland. Gladstone is not the only coal fired power station to receive compensation. In NSW, Origin’s Eraring power station will also receive compensation.

The coal cap legislation forbids coal producers from selling coal to domestic generators above the price cap and electricity generators must dispatch into the NEM at costs that reflects the cost of coal procured below the coal cap. The changes in bidding have resulted in the forward market electricity prices dramatically falling with the likelihood of future contract prices to level off in line with new long run marginal costs.

Below is a summary by state of recent activity:

  • QLD prices ranged between -$78.70/MWh and $270.00/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $67.59/MWh.
  • QLD Q422 prices ranged between -$122.18/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh , averaging $120.24/MWh.
  • Solar output fluctuated across the period with output peaking close to previous weeks at 2,106MW, during the negative spot period the output was economically curtailed. Cloud cover also reduced output.
  • Apart from Christmas eve, wind generation displayed a consistent negative correlation with solar. Output peaked at 685MW leading up to Christmas then reduced to a normal maximum of 450MW for the remainder of the year.
  • Gas fired generation including Swanbank E, Townsville, Roma and Condamine covered the evening peaks with the exception of Yarwun that operated 24/7.
  • Wivenhoe hydro generation reflected the gas generators by covering the evening peaks and evening while Kareeya continued to generate around the clock.
  • Coal fired availability remained high with Gladstone taking a unit off over the Christmas / New Years break, Kogan creek returned to service on 20th December and remains online. Millmerran 1 came offline on the 30th and remains offline. All other operating as expected.
  • NSW prices ranged between -$69.20MWh and $223.54/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $73.60/MWh.
  • NSW Q422 prices ranged between -$120.00/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh, averaging $115.66/MWh.
  • Most price spikes are now being capped below $149/MWh lower than the previous $300/MWh cap, this is likely as a result of the cap on gas.
  • Solar output fluctuated across the period with output peaking close to previous weeks at 2,367MW, during the negative spot period the output was economically curtailed. Cloud cover also reduced output.
  • Wind output dropped as we approached Christmas then increased to peak at 1,436MW at the end of the year.
  • Tallawarra was the only gas turbine to generate over the Christmas break due to relatively low prices.
  • Coal fired availability remained high despite various movement in units, Bayswater returned to service on the 20th but Eraring and Vales Point both took units offline over Christmas. Eraring returned to service on the 2nd January but the Vales point unit remains offline.
  • SA prices ranged between -$605.41/MWh and $4,027.21/MWh for the for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $41.19/MWh.
  • SA Q422 prices ranged between -$1,000.00/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh , averaging $63.67/MWh.
  • Solar generation peaked at 435MW on the last day of the year but maximums averaged 350MW. Negative spot prices caused units to be constrained.
  • Wind generation was sporadic reaching a high of 1,915MW but also dropped to less than 10MW occasionally. The SA market spiked on two occasions, both times the output from wind generation dropped significantly.
  • Thermal generators continue to operate over the evening peak when spot prices are generally higher, however they are operating during other parts of the day when spot prices are high. Torrens Island is operating all hours of the day, but Quarantine, Barkers inlet, Dry creek and Pelican Point have reduce run times as they focus on higher price periods.
  • VIC prices ranged between -$141.51/MWh and $228.44/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $36.17/MWh.
  • VIC Q422 prices ranged between -$996.18/MWh and $584.31/MWh , averaging $62.86/MWh.
  • Solar generation was heavily constrained due to negative prices, solar output peaked at 797MW.
  • Wind generation was sporadic reaching a high of 2,871MW but also dropped to less than 5MW occasionally.
  • Hydro generation continues with its strategy of only operating Murray over the evening peaks, with Dartmouth, Eildon and Bogong adding additional generation when required. Hydro generation continues to increase during the high price periods. Hydro generation across Victoria and NSW has been used to keep a cap on spot prices, however the market is now capping around $140/MWh rather than the traditional $300/MWh cap price.
  • Yallourn continues to have various issues over the Christmas break with unit tripping followed by a fail return to service of unit 1, by the end of the year Yallourn was operating with 3 units. The Loy Yang A & B station operated consistently across the last 2 weeks of the year, continuing with the strategy of reducing generation during low price periods.

At Edge2020 we help our customers navigate the ever-changing energy landscape and to ensure the proactive and accurate delivery of advisory, account, and portfolio management services and associated outcomes. If you could benefit from an expert eye on your energy portfolio, we’d love to meet you. Contact us on: 1800 334 336 or email:

Winter is coming

Now I am a major Game of Thrones fan, but I never thought moving to Australia that I would turn into Ned Stark and constantly worry about a Northern Hemisphere Winter. But, as we are hurtling towards those cooler months in t’north and following the tumultuous Q2 and start of Q3 in the NEM, I am preaching that the Northern ‘Winter is Coming’ and even down here in Australia we must be ready.

As background Northern Europe, UK, France, Belgium, Germany etc., rely on feeds of Gas from Norway and Russia. Gas is significant in Europe as a 1-degree shift in temperature can result in around 5% of domestic demand increase, or decrease, due to most homes being heated via Gas-Central heating. With a third La Niña about to be called in the Southern hemisphere and La Niña, correlated with colder winters in Europe, with increased snowfall, as it shifts the jet stream north to the pole and increases storms across Northern Europe, this can only mean an increase this heating demand.

This confluence of events would usually increase my concern for a tight supply in the European market, but this year is different. Ignoring for now the Russian flows, we will circle back to that later, Norway’s Energy Minister has already raised the possibility that they may restrict electricity exports with possible restrictions to Gas flows as well. With much of their electricity coming from hydro, and after an un-seasonably warm summer period, Norway has stated the priority will be to refill the reservoirs over winter, rather than secure the energy supply of their European neighbours. With this flow being restricted into Northern Europe, coupled with a diminishing fleet of coal and nuclear options, gas will be the favoured source of domestic supply for Northern Europe. Although there are other interconnectors, it is anticipated these will either be significantly under utilised or such a price differential within a domestic market will occur to ensure flows to a single market will ensue. This could be facilitated by pushing those areas (countries) price up to exorbitant amounts to ensure flow across the interconnector and shore up domestic supply. With flows of course favouring higher priced regions.

Now let’s put Russia into the mix. Russia announced this week that the Nord-Stream 1 pipeline, a crucial pipeline for gas flow into Europe, required maintenance from the 31st August. This happens to coincide with European markets trying to firm up winter supply by filling storage and Russia increasing aggression to the Ukraine, but I am sure that was a coincidence.

The 3-day maintenance will have a return to service for the 2nd September. But how likely is this to return? Well, if the last outage is anything to go by, where only 40% of the required flow reached Europe and the delivery of the required turbine was strangely delayed, the price increase was significant and totally in Russian control. Now with this latest outage and flows expected to be around 5% of the obligations agreed with the EU, the cynic in me wondered if Putin is trying to offset the sanctions place on Russia by pushing the cost of Gas to exorbitant amounts. If he can sell his 5% for the same as the revenue from the already inflated 40% and free the remaining gas for sale to more amiable neighbours, he is in a win-win situation.

The real fear is that this flow remains low for the whole of Europe’s winter, which would not only put massive strain on the cost of generation but also lead to many retailers simply not able to meet their obligations and go under. There is also a risk of lack of supply and therefore blackouts as well as increasing costs on an already strained economic environment.

To mitigate this, European generators are throwing out their climate targets with the baby and the bath water in favour of supply and are scrambling to shore up gas supply and return coal-fired power stations from cold storage. The Mehrun Coal-Fired Power plant in Saxony Germany came back online at the start of August, Uniper have just announced they are re-commissioning the Heyden plant in North Rhine-Westphalia and in the UK, the government has made moves to re-open the rough gas storage facility, 25% of it initially, ignoring the safety concerns which led to its original closure. But this will not be enough, and this is where Australia needs to brace itself for a secondary wave of impacts.

LNG and coal exports into Europe will increase, as the price differential will be significant. The ensuing impact through the JKM on the domestic gas market, and coal export price will affect the replenishment of the longer-term running costs of our own generators.

Although significant volume should be pre-hedged, these prices will start feeding through, nothing is stopping the trading opportunity cost being passed through by generators. They will argue the replenishment of the stockpile will need to factor these spot and forwards prices, interesting that doesn’t flow through in a bear’s market though.  What does that mean for our summer, well it means the high prices aren’t going anywhere fast. The shortage of supply in the NEM may be diminished, with most, if not all units now returned from overhaul, yet the price is continuing to take advantage of, and reflect the international fundamentals rather than the real long run average cost of the asset.

With the Capacity Mechanism being put on ice and strengthening Safeguard Mechanisms already announced by the Labor Government, coupled with favourable international fundamental conditions providing political cover for generators, could this be the last hurrah for coal and gas generators to eek the last value from these assets?

Either way be under no illusions, with the Northern winter hurtling towards us, European prices already building in shortfalls in supply and no end to the Ukraine conflict in sight, the Vega sensitivity is going off the chart and is not going to be subsiding anytime soon. As such Australia, and especially its energy markets need to brace, for the fallout.

To circle back to Game of Thrones, Ramsay Bolton stated, “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention” for ‘winter is coming’ and we must be prepared.

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

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.