After averaging more than a nickel below Henry Hub all this year, the California Border natural gas price spiked to 66 cents/MMbtu above Henry on Friday. This kind of price volatility is no surprise to anyone following the radical shifts in California energy markets, starting five years ago when the state legislature enacted its 33%-by-2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law. By mid-2015, more than 14,000 MW of new solar and wind power had pulled down gas demand in California to the point that natural gas prices at the SoCal Border were averaging a negative basis to Henry Hub. Still not satisfied, last year California legislators voted to establish a 50% renewables target for 2030. On top of it all, the West Coast was coming up on a La Niña year that would bring more rain –– and hydroelectric generation –– to the Pacific Northwest and eventually into California. With all that renewable power (solar, wind and hydro), California seemed headed for an unprecedented period of low gas prices, but it did not turn out to be so simple. In today’s blog, we continue our look at California’s power and gas markets with the events and drivers that shaped late 2015 and the first six-plus months of 2016, and consider what’s to come.
Posts from Jeff Richter
California energy markets look quite a bit different today than they did five years ago when the state enacted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law that requires every utility and other electricity retailer to serve 33% of their load with renewable energy by 2020. Since then, California has seen huge changes in its energy balances – it shut down the nuclear generating plants at San Onofre, regulators expedited the build-out of new transmission lines to get more wind and solar power into the market, the state implemented a carbon cap-and-trade program, the legislature increased the RPS target to 50%, and SoCal Gas’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility sprung a leak. Today, we look at the changes in California’s energy markets since 2011, and what they mean for future developments in a state far out front in the adoption of renewables and environmental regulation.
Early in 2012, soon after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, two California nuclear power plants called SONGS 2 and SONGS 3 (stands for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station) shut down for the foreseeable future. This pulled roughly 2,200 MW of base load generation out of the Southern California supply stack. The California System Operator (CAISO) scrambled for several weeks to bring replacement power into the system, and succeeded admirably. The grid held together and weathered last year’s hot summer. Now as the summer of 2013 starts to come into focus, there are lots of questions about the SONGS units –which are still off line – and what California’s overall power generation load will mean for natural gas demand and prices. Today we survey the measures that made things work last year and examine the most likely market developments expected for Summer 2013.