Increasing Use of Natural Gas May Lead to Infrastructure Issues

Natural Gas Pipeline

Inexpensive natural gas is affecting the traditionally favorable cost of coal-fired power plants. With increased shale production, estimates of recoverable domestic gas reserves have surged in recent years.

Natural gas should continue to increase its use in power plants as the EPA creates greenhouse gas regulations for new power generation that will “effectively ban new coal-fired power plants,” ScottMadden said.

“The electric industry is beginning to adjust its generation complement accordingly, as the shale gas boom makes gas-fired power compelling for new generation, at least for the moment,” the firm said.

The nuclear power industry is also facing new concerns as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission moves forward with new requirements move than a year after the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdown in Japan.

The natural gas industry faces its own concerns, however, These concerns range from public pushback over fracking, to the need to address “aging pipes,” according to the consultant’s report.

Potential unknowns facing the natural gas industry include regulation of expanded exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). With so many of its nuclear plants closed post-Fukushima, Japan is seen as a growing market for LNG. Meanwhile, back in the United States, there is the potential for natural gas to play a growing role in transportation fuel for motor vehicles.

Pipeline flow capacity constraints are emerging issues for the natural gas and power sectors. To meet a possible doubling of natural gas demand, an additional 24,000 miles of pipeline could be required in the new future. Gas companies will be major players in this future build-out of transportation infrastructure for power generation.

National Grid in Massachusetts Increases Basic Service Rates by 40%

National Grid customers in Massachusetts with Fixed Basic Service will see a rate increase on their bills starting on November 1, 2012.

G-1  Fixed customers will see a 9.53% electricity rate increase to $0.07/kWH for the period 11/1/12 to 4/30/13

G-2 SEMA customers will have electricity rates increase by 43% to $0.07231/kWH for the same period.

G-2 NEMA customers will have electricity  rates increase by 41.2% to $0.07478/kWH.

G-2 WCMA customers will have rate increased of 48.8% to $0.07486/kWH.

As a base of comparison, as of this posting on October 12, the one year fixed-price contracts for the above customers, with a November start, would be as follows:

G-2 SEMA: $.072

G-2 NEMA: $0.0722

G-2 WCMA: $0.07199

Electricity Supplier Offers Fixed Rate for Seven Years in Pennsylvania

One of the many electricity suppliers offered by Better Cost Control, quietly introduced the longest-term fixed-rate deal ever offered to  customers since the retail market opened up to full-scale competition in Pennsylvania.  This fixed price offering is available in these electricity supplier areas:

  • MetEd
  • Duquesne
  • PECO
  • Penelec
  • PennPower
  • West Penn Power

Unlike other fixed-rate offers, which tend to demand higher prices for longer terms, this seven-year rate is among the lowest on the market right now. At 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is 28.6 percent less than Peco’s current price of 10.5 cents per kWh.  Rates are different depending on your local electricity distribution company.

You get a good, low price that’s not going to change for seven years.  One reason they are able to offer such a low price is that this supplier actually owns generation assets, versus most suppliers that actually hedge prices with financial instruments such as derivatives.

Your local electricity company continues to provide billing and customer service as the distribution company.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission currently lists many options on papowerswitch.com. The offers include variable rates, fixed rates and green-energy options.

A long term contract will appeal to customers who want to set-it-and-forget-it.  They will never have to worry about a price increase for the entire seven year period.

Fixed-rate deals may be attractive right now to some customers who are about to be shocked with higher bills because of their utility’s quarterly price adjustment. For example. Peco’s supply charge went up 21.5 percent on October 1.  Peco says the rates will come back down to 8.81 cents per kWh on Jan. 1.

FirstEnergy Solutions says it can offer the price certainty because its parent company controls 20,000 megawatts of power-generation capacity and is looking to lock in long-term customers.

Power prices currently are at record lows, so locking in for the long-term is similar to refinancing a mortgage when interest rates hit bottom. There’s always a chance the rates could go lower, but it’s more likely they will go up.

But by making a seven-year commitment, customers may be limiting their future options. Peco is currently installing smart meters that will allow suppliers to offer hourly pricing next year, which some customers may use to reduce their bills by shifting their discretionary electrical loads to off-peak hourly rates.

First Energy files for Default Service Price to Compare

First Energy just filed for new Default Service rates in Pennsylvania.  These will be the new Price-to-Compare for all commercial electricity customers to use when comparing competitive electricity price offers.

Assuming PUC approval, rate effective September 1, 2012 to November 30, 2012 will be:

MetEd Commercial: $0.07181 per kwh

Penelec: $0.06541

Penn Power: $0.05550

As of this writing, fixed priced electricity contracts through Better Cost Control will save the customer money for the period that First Energy filed.

You may wonder why the dramatic price difference between Penn Power and the other two companies.  This is due to the months that they contracted their tranches of electricity. Penn Power has only two tranches that were purchased at auctions in  Jan 2012 and March 2012, when prices were at their lowest.  The offer prices are based on a weighted average of the different contract periods:

MetEd: Tranches purchased May, 2011, October 2011, Jan 2012, May 2012

Penelec: Tranches purchased May 2011, Oct 2011, Jan 2012, Mar 2012

Penn Power: Tranches Jan 2012 auction and March 2012 auction

To obtain a quotation for electricity or natural gas, contact Better Cost Control.

Natural Gas and Electricity Prices Are Trending Upward

Natural gas prices have very quietly trended up over the past three months pulling power prices along for the ride.  With NYMEX prompt month gas just above $3 as this article was being written, many seem to be putting the value in historical perspective. But relative to recent prices, $3 represents a substantial move.  During this stretch, September natural gas prices have risen over 36% and one year forward, beginning September, have increased over 17%.  For a commodity that has seen its value plummet so dramatically and for such a prolonged period, this 3-month gain represents a stark change and one that should have garnered more attention than it actually has.

Storage has helped fuel this run as many of the recent summer injection levels are down from previous year, week-in-kind volumes.  Despite the lower build, end of injection season levels are still forecaste to be at all-time highs.  Rig counts continue to fall and over the past nine months, they have decreased by nearly 50% -contributing to the smaller storage builds and price increases.  As prices rise and as we near the winter season, the rig decline could reverse course.   The approximate 10% year-over-year contango in the forward market displays the general market consensus that the future will hold higher prices, but a similar or stronger contango has existed over the past several years throughout a majority of the price decline.

Duke Energy Files for Electricity and Gas Rate Increases in Ohio

Duke Energy Ohio filed for rate increases that would raise  electric and gas bills for customers in southwest Ohio.

On Monday, the Cincinnati-based utility filed applications with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, asking for approval of an $86.6 million increase in the electric rates and a $44.6 million increase in gas rates. Duke wants the rate increases to take effect in January 2013.

Under the proposals, commercial and industrial customers would see about a 4.6 percent increase in electric rates and about a 3.7 percent increase in gas rates.

The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel has filed to intervene in the case on behalf of consumers, but is still reviewing details of Duke’s applications before commenting, Consumers’ Counsel spokesman Marty Berkowitz said.

The proposed electric rate increase would affect 690,000 customers in all or parts of Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Highland, Preble, Montgomery and Warren counties. The proposed gas rate increase would affect 420,000 customers in all or parts of all those counties with the exception of Preble.

Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls said the increases would allow the utility “to begin collecting from customers the investment it has already made to improve the electric and gas systems.”

Duke has invested $310 million in projects to improve electric service reliability, according to the utility. The electric rate increase also is needed because of increases in general operation and maintenance costs for the distribution system and because of a decline in sales volumes since 2009.

The natural gas rate increase is needed to help reimburse the utility for the more than $500 million it invested in upgrading pipes and other parts of the gas distribution system at a time when the volume of natural gas sales had declined and for the more than $65 million needed to clean up two former manufactured gas plants.

Duke Energy will have 60 days to provide supporting testimony before the Public Utilities Commission staff makes its recommendation. Time also will be allowed for any objections to be filed and for public hearings before the commission makes its decision. The commission has 275 days from the time of the application to make its decision.

First Time since 1973- Natural Gas and Coal Each 32% of Electricity Generation in the US for April.

This is a market update for June 29, 2012.

The Aug12 natural gas contract is up $.03 to $2.75. The Aug12 crude contract is up $2.64 at $80.34.

The Aug12 contract finished down 7 cents yesterday to $2.722.  The market was down as much as 15 cents at one point following the natural gas storage report which yielded an injection of 57 Bcf which was slightly above market consensus of 53.

As we have continued to talk about coal to gas switching a lot more in recent months, as natural gas prices have dropped to a level where it is competitive with coal.  The EIA reported this week that Natural gas and coal accounted for 32% each of net electricity generation in the US for April.  This is the first time gas has matched coal since the EIA began collecting data in 1973.  In 1973 coal accounted for 45.5% of generation while gas accounted for 18.3%.  Heat will continue to grip the majority of the country pushing up short term gas and electricity prices.

United Illuminating in Connecticut Posts Competitive Supplier Numbers

United Illuminating has posted electric migration statistics as of May 31, 2012.

The growth in the number of customers on competitive supply from the end of April to the end of May was 900 accounts, down from the growth of 1,100 accounts from the end of March to the end of April.

As of the report date, 22,458 business standard service customers, or 58% of customers served, were supplied by a competitive electricity supplier.  The remaining 16,055 customers, or 42% of the customer class count, were still on the UI supply, paying the higher electricity supply rate.  On an annual kWH basis, 79.5% of the business load is with a competitive supplier.

 

 

 

Technological Advancements Plugging in to the Energy Industry with the “Smart Grid”

What is the “Smart Grid”?  The term refers to a concept now being enhanced by Ameren Corporation.  Although it is a term that is relatively new and not everyone has heard of, Ameren’s predecessor companies have been investing in “smart” technologies for nearly three decades. The current subsidiary, Ameren, was founded as a subsidiary back in 1997.

The idea is to implement modern technologies to the National Power Grid; an infrastructure that has traditionally been managed manually as it was developed over the past century.  Ameren targets all sectors of the distribution channel; the transmission grid which is the backbone of the interconnected electrical system, substations that serve as power facilities throughout the system, and the distribution grid that delivers electricity to the homes and businesses that consume it.  The ultimate goal is to update the National Power Grid with modern technologies for better reliability, faster identification of problems, prevention of outages, and all around enhance efficiency.  Not to mention, the implementation of Smart Grid technologies keeps the downward pressure on prices and even minimizes environmental impact.

Sounds like the perfect solution, right?  Some are skeptical of the young technology and its implementation.  The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) rejected Ameren’s plans to install its technologies on the National Power Grid in the states’ regions.  The ICC cited a lack of detail in the plan and was hesitant to accept the cost/benefit analysis that relied on speculative calculations.

Others, however, acknowledge the potential of the concept.  Earlier in June the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Ameren’s plan to continue implementing its efforts.

The Smart Grid may revolutionize the traditional electrical system of the United States and change the way we distribute this valuable asset to everyone’s life.

To learn more about the energy industry please browse our site and feel free to contact us via email or call 800-454-0027 x150.

Pepco files Maryland new Type II Standard Offer Service Rate

Electric MeterPepco has filed with the Maryland PSC new Type II SOS rates for the three-month period beginning September 1, 2012.

Customers who do not shop for supply from an alternate electric provider in Maryland receive Standard Offer Service, or SOS, from their utility. How SOS is priced depends on a customer’s class and size.

Large business and industrial customers (those above 600 kW) receive hourly prices from the PJM wholesale market. These prices vary with the spot wholesale market price of electricity, which is extremely volatile. Thus, most large customers have contracted with a competitive energy provider to avoid these hourly prices, and receive rate stability.

Medium-sized business customers (25 kW to 600 kW) receive an SOS price that changes quarterly, and are known as Type II customers. All the electricity supply to serve these utility SOS customers is bought every three months, meaning prices often vary widely during the year. Customers can avoid these price fluctuations by contracting with a alternative electric provider.

SOS prices for residential and small commercial customers (under 25 kW) change every six months. Supply for this class, known as Type I, has been “laddered” to shield customers from exposure to the wholesale market at any one time. The supply needs for these customers are split into quarters, and 25% of supply is procured every six months for a period of two years — meaning the SOS price is a revolving mix of old and current supply contracts. While intended to shield small customers from the price volatility witnessed by larger customers, this “laddering” can also raise prices through risk premiums. The SOS price also does not fall as quickly when the wholesale market price falls, because only a small part of SOS supply is being bought in the current market. Customers can take advantage of falling prices faster by choosing a competitive energy provider that offers lower rates when market prices fall.

Pepco-MD Generation Service Charge 9/1/12 – 11/30/12 (¢/kWh)

Schedule MGT LV II
On Peak: 6.143
Intermediate: 6.143
Off Peak: 6.143

Schedule MGT 3A II
On Peak: 6.059
Intermediate: 6.059
Off Peak: 6.059

As of this writing, the above prices are lower than alternative fixed price contracts that begin in September.  Since these SOS rates are only for three months, all market indicators tell us that on December 1, 2012, customers on the SOS rate will find their prices rising. Contracting for a longer term will protect customers from price volatility.

Duke Energy Ohio Intends to Increase Distribution Rates for Early 2013

Yesterday, Duke Energy Ohio has filed a notice with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) with the company’s intention to increase distribution rates for electric service customers by $86 million and natural gas customers by $44 million.

The decision will be made at a hearing this mid-July, and if approved commercial and industrial customers will see an average price increase of 4.6% for electricity and 3.7% for natural gas.  These prices are to be in effect starting early 2013.  The increase in distribution rates will accommodate for the company’s recent investments in projects to improve the reliability of the distribution system and generation processes.

Duke officials said that even if this testimony is approved by PUCO, on average consumers would still be paying less for their electricity and natural gas.  This is due to the pressure of the market causing a trend of lower market prices.

Judie Janson, Duke Energy Ohio president, went on to add that Duke customers would even remain among the lowest paying customers in the state.  As of this writing, prices from a variety of Better Cost Control competitive suppliers in Ohio are lower than the prices that will be offered by Duke Energy.  We recommend using an electricity broker to obtain the best prices and contract terms.

To learn more about a fixed price electricity contract to protect your company from price fluctuations, contact us via email or call 800-454-0027 x150.

AEP Ohio to Continue Blocking Retail Customers from Lower Market Prices

Just yesterday, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, aka PUCO, made the decision to allow AEP Ohio to continue to block its retail customers from receiving lower electric rates available from the suppliers in the competitive market.

After yesterday’s ruling, AEP Ohio remains the only utility provider in the state that can effectively restrict any of its customers from obtaining lower market based capacity prices.  These unprecedentedly low rates advocate a competitive market, which helps commercial customers save money.  But for AEP Ohio clients, they will have no other options than the set prices of their provider, which are substantially higher than what the current market is providing.  To put things in perspective, AEP Ohio will be able to charge a rate of Capacity Charges that is as much as seven times the current market-based rate.

In Ohio, there has been a trend of reducing utility rates due to the competitive environment that has developed between providers.  Last period, providers such as FirstEnergy Ohio and Duke Energy Ohio reduced their prices 17% for its utility customers.  This ruling that PUCO has made enables AEP Ohio to defy that competition and monopolize their rates and customers.

AEP is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities and owns the largest electricity transmission system.  President and Chief Operating Officer, Pablo Vegas, stated that the PUCO decision was an appropriate and necessary one.  He argues that AEP Ohio is ready to embrace the competitive market, however, must have permission to temporarily charge higher rates in order to accommodate for the considerable investment they have to make in order to transition their plants away from coal-burning generators.

A number of Better Cost Control’s suppliers in the state of Ohio offer substantially lower rates than those of AEP Ohio.  Having a professional energy advocate can protect you from a volatile market and save you money.  To learn more about how please contact us via email or call 800-454-0027 x150.