Market Update – Q3 2022 to date

As we move out of Q2 2022, a quarter that we have never seen behave in this way before, it is interesting to see how things have changed in Q3 to date.

Why was Q2 2022 so controversial? Well, we saw record spot prices, record forward prices, caps put on the gas market, caps put in place in the electricity market, market direction, the activation of Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) and eventually suspension of the National Electricity Market (NEM). As we moved through Q3 has the situation changed?

To make this decision we must first review Q2, to assist us in understanding if things are going to change. What caused all the market intervention in Q2 and the eventual market suspension?

Q2 is normally a quiet time in the NEM, demand is low, and generators take the opportunity to take units offline for routine planned overhauls. The drop in availability that results from the units on overhaul are normally soaked up by the remaining units online. This Q2 we saw a lower than normal number of units online across the NEM to take up this slack, namely Callide C4 that was offline due to the catastrophic failure in May 2021, Swanbank E and thermal generators dispatching less volume due to flooding across NSW and QLD reducing coal supplies.

Q2 2022 saw average spot prices more than double compared with recent years and peaked at the end of the quarter. The average for Q2 2022 reached $332/MWh in Qld, $302/MWh in NSW, SA at $257/MWh and VIC the lowest, at $224/MWh.

Interestingly the quarterly average price for NSW and QLD was above where the Administered Price Cap (APC). The APC is triggered when the sum of the previous 7 days trading intervals equals $1,359,100. The price is then capped at $300/MWh and remains in place at least until the end of the trading day.

Q2 2022 was a quarter of extreme price, low availability, and market interventions. In Queensland for example we saw 42 hours of spot prices below $0/MWh but also 32 hours above $1,000/MWh. While we did not see a significant number of prices reaching the market cap of $15,100/MWh we did see solid prices that increased the average to levels not normally seen in Q2.

During Q2, exacerbating the issue, we saw significant volume bid in below $0/MWh so units would remain online, however with little between this price and higher prices meant there was a visible gap in the bid stack until prices were over $300/MWh. This distribution was a result of higher fuel cost such as spot gas at $40/GJ which converts to a generation price of over $400/MWh. However, we also saw the emergence of strategic bidding that introduced volatility and higher average prices into the market. The result of the strategic bidding was spot prices for the majority of the time across the NEM were above $100/MWh and often above $300/MWh.

As coal supplies became limited due to flooding, the gas price also jumped due to the global supply issues caused by the war in Ukraine. These fundamentals led to the spot prices increasing and eventually forcing the market operator to cap the market when the Administered Price Cap was reached. APC put a cap of $300/MWh on the electricity spot market.

As a result of the APC, generators removed capacity out of the market rather than operating at a loss due to their higher spot fuel cost. This resulted in the removal of over 3,000MW of generation in which forced AEMO to intervene in the market and direct units online as well as being forced to activate RERT to maintain system security.

Over a few days operating under the APC the market became impractical to operate using directions and AEMO eventually suspended the market on 15 June 2022.

During market suspension AEMO took over the control of the dispatch of market participants units.

Simultaneously during the market suspension, availability returned to the market as units returned from overhauls, coal and gas supply restriction improved and trading strategies were reviewed by the market participants.

On 24 June 2022 AEMO lifted the suspension of the market and the NEM returned to normal operation.

Since the lifting of the market suspension and the commencement of Q3 we have seen a change in some behavior, however spot prices remain high. In the first week of Q3 market participants took advantage of market conditions of low intermittent generation ensuring they benefitted from the ability to increase volatility. In the first week spot price hit the new maximum price cap of $15,500/MWh on several occasions.

While these price spike has lifted the quarterly average for the first 21 days of Q3 to $466/MWh in QLD and $418/MWh in NSW we are seeing this average drop each day.

The main driver for the lower spot prices is, as mentioned before, the improved availability across the NEM. Availability in QLD is regularly reaching 9,000MW compared to in June when it dropped 6,600MW. The short-term outlook for generation continues to improve daily with the majority of planned outages now completed.

A secondary driver that has pushed down average prices is the return of the sun. Solar generation is now regularly pushing the spot price below $100/MWh and on some occasions back into negative territory.

Less volatility in the spot market has been reflected in the forward market with Q422 QLD dropping from over $270/MWh in June to $260/MWh and the Q123 product dropping below $250/MWh.

Without delving into the gas supply concerns in Victoria, all other states have removed the price cap on gas allowing the market to operate more efficiently. This has not resulted in the gas market trading at significantly high prices as feared, Qld is $42.75/GJ, NSW is $51.51/GJ and SA at $45.51, translating into a sub $500/MWh peaking gas plant cost of generation.

As the weather warms up and the daylight hours increase, we expect to see a drop in demand, with heating loads reducing coupled with an increase in the generation provided by solar.

All of this, as well as increased thermal generator availability and stability in the gas markets, should see spot and forward prices continue to fall across the quarter.

Is UFE the UIG of Australia?

Anyone who knew me in my past life in the UK knows that I harped on about Unidentified Gas (UIG) A LOT!

The idea behind UIG is simple, allocate the gas which couldn’t be attributed to a meter in an area across all end users in that area, in which it was used (off-taken). Seems simple right. But when was the last time you actually gave a meter reading? Possibly six months to a year ago? Well that means your off-take (unless you are on a smart meter) is estimated and you will be either over or under on allocated unidentified gas.

Although this seems sensible with everyone eventually giving a meter read and therefore it will all work out in the wash, what exacerbates the issue, especially at the moment, is the extreme increase in the gas price at which these charges are now passed through to retailers and then in turn our bills.

Now what does understating this UK gas usage or allocation have to do with Australia? Well, quite a lot. The system is similar, but not the same.

Following Global Settlements being introduced by AEMO we have started seeing Australia’s version of these charges coming into our bills. We allocate the unidentified – called Unaccounted for Energy (UFE) within each region by the off-takers in that area.

What we are not doing yet, which in the UK’s defense they do there (through XOServe), is take into account those meters which are half hourly ready (smart(er) meters) and therefore their usage should be known. Currently in Australia the offtake in a region will be directly linked to your proportion of an energy being allocated to you and you literally have no say in these charges, despite having updated metering capability.

The sore point of it all is that this is occurring at a time when our electricity market is extremely high and therefore there is a possibility of the combination of large UFEs  being passed through to end users at high prices, with companies having no control over the volume or price it is passed through at. This is leading to significant shocks to companies’ outgoings, as there is little to no visibility on the charge on any given month, and no way to forecast them to budget.

I fear that UFE will become my new soap box issue, and I can guarantee this isn’t the last anyone will hear on this. I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one who will be making noise.

Is this happening to your business? If you feel you need more control of your company’s energy spend, please reach out to discuss joining our Edge Utilities Power Portfolio (EUPP) where we use the power of bulk purchasing to help Australian businesses of all sizes save on their energy bills. Read more: https://edgeutilities.com.au/edge-utilities-power-portfolio/ or call us on: 1800 334 336 to discuss. 

 

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.

 

 

Let’s talk Energy Markets

Energy Markets

In the past 2 years, the market has dropped from highs of over $75/MWh in August 2019 then following the events outlined on the chart below the market price dropped to historic lows of around $36/MWh.

Following some volatility at the start of 2021 driven by a hot summer, the market firmed and increased further because of the catastrophic failure of Callide C4 and the tripping of many other power stations.

The chart below shows that the underlying spot price (light blue line) has continued to spike and trend up resulting in increases in the contract prices. Another interesting aspect of price curves is how market announcements such as the cost of coal and gas can impact the curve. In months, the curve softened but spiked due to conflicts in Ukraine causing coal and gas, a key input to thermal generation, to increase in price.

The spot price of these commodities is not directly linked to the fuel price used by generators in the next quarter, so the market has now softened.

Future years are also becoming cheaper year on year as renewable energy takes a larger share of the market and renewable energy is expected to continue to fall in price.

Having recently undertaken a few requests for proposals (RFP) for our clients, we are aware there is good value for companies willing to take up longer term renewable PPAs. More and more projects are becoming available post 2023/24.

Undertaking a renewable PPA will go towards meeting many companies’ sustainability targets through the procurement of renewable energy and environmental certificates.

Below are the contact details for Alex. He would be happy to discuss your company’s sustainability targets and how we can help the business reach them.

Alex Driscoll

Senior Manager Markets, Trading & Advisory

M: 0437 966 409

P: (07) 3905 9226

T: 1800 334 336

E: alex.driscoll@edge2020.com.au

Yesterday was a BIG day in the market

You may have heard it has been hot in Queensland over the last couple of days. Yesterday this all came to a head with the market showing some cracks.  

 At a high level, the spot price averaged $1,607/MWh for the day. Prices were less than $300/MW for most of the day when solar generation was high but as we moved to the evening the spot price spiked to between $10,000/MWh to $15,100/MWh for a few hours as coal, gas fired generation and pumped hydro set price.  

Yesterday and again today the market is under pressure on both the supply and demand sides. For the last couple of days, the hot weather has been influencing consumption. The second part of the equation is the supply side. At the start of yesterday Queensland’s largest generator, Kogan Creek was offline as well as Callide B2. All other “baseload” units were online.  

High temperatures and particularly high humidity impact the output from coal and gas fired generation. Coal units generally vacuum unload over the evening peak if they have not been proactively managed by the operators, which AEMO is fully aware of and is built into the contingency. Another issue with Kogan Creek being offline is that it reduces the flow across the QLD to NSW Interconnector (QNI), the result flows from NSW and is generally capped at ~600MW.  

The final issue is the bidding behaviour of participants. The previous days’ bid stack indicated prices would stay below $300/MWh during the daylight hours then jumped to $900/MWh where CleanCos cap price with its Wivenhoe Hydro generator, but once through that price band the spot price jumped to $10,000/MWh then again to $15,100/MWh.  

Adding to the already tight supply balance, the Tarong Power Station Unit 2 tripped at 15:15, returning to service at 18:50. Tarong 2 was ramping up at the time of the trip and from the trip profile, it does not look like a tube leak. From 18:50 the unit ramped up over the next couple of hours and is now running normally. Shell also had plant issues at the 78MW Condamine Power Station, taking the unit offline. Tarong, Millmerian, Stanwell and Gladstone Power Stations also had one or more issues over the evening peak.  

An Intervention Event was triggered as a result of Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) being implemented in Qld. This took effect from 17:00 01/02/22 until 21:30. Intervention pricing took effect from 17:00.  

A Lack of Reserve (LOR3) is still active for today as RERT has not been extended to manage today’s evening peak. If RERT is extended or reinstated today the LOR3 will be cancelled.  

As part of RERT, Powerlink was asking for industry to reduce consumption if safe. Large mines in Queensland have historic agreements with Ergon to reduce consumption and on this occasion, they reduced load as requested.  

In the build-up to the evening peak, the Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen and Minister for Public Works and Procurement, the Honourable Mick de Brenni made the statement “It is possible that Queensland’s previous record demand of 10,044MW will be exceeded on either today or tomorrow.”  

Queensland’s demand peaked at 16:40 as a result of the demand side management.  

At 21:30 AEMO published a market notice letting the market know that the intervention event had ended and as a result, RERT and Intervention pricing was not continuing.  

So what is ahead for us today?  

  • Demand forecast is looking to peak close to 10,000MW today, this is forecast to occur at 17:00.  
  • Pre dispatch spot pricing is again forecast to be at $15,100/MWh between 14:00 and 23:00.  
  • RERT may be needed again today and AEMO will currently be exploring their options. 

Written by Alex Driscoll Senior Manager Markets, Trading & Advisory

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.