Executive Briefings

Here's How Energy Traders Got the Eclipse So Wrong

Grid operators and traders thought they were totally prepped for the historic U.S. solar eclipse. There was just this one thing they didn't completely factor in: "irregular human-behavior patterns."

Here's How Energy Traders Got the Eclipse So Wrong

That's the technical definition, from the folks who manage the electricity network at the Southwest Power Pool, for the conduct of millions of Americans who were outdoors ogling the moon shadowing the sun instead of cranking up the A/C in homes and offices. Demand, of course, tends to rise heading into the hottest part of a summer day. On Aug. 21, it developed a weird U-shaped dip over a two-hour period across the country.

This was a bummer for traders who'd bet prices would jump as a whole load of solar-produced megawatts faded to black. "If anything, it was bearish from a trading perspective because people were more busy looking at the eclipse and talking about the eclipse," said Tom Hahn, vice president of U.S. power derivatives at brokerage ICAP Energy LLC in Durham, North Carolina.

Spot power in California fell to negative levels as the eclipse wiped out and restarted thousands of megawatts of solar power, and they also dipped from Texas to New York. While natural gas demand rose to a one-month high that day, spot prices at several hubs weakened versus the U.S. benchmark.

The outage of renewable resources, fossil fuel or nuclear generation can send prices shooting up by hundreds of dollars within minutes. But grid operators, utilities and electricity generators had been planning for months to make up for big swings in supplies. Add that pesky human factor and, oops.

"The eclipse was definitely a distraction to the market," Hahn said.

Read Full Article

That's the technical definition, from the folks who manage the electricity network at the Southwest Power Pool, for the conduct of millions of Americans who were outdoors ogling the moon shadowing the sun instead of cranking up the A/C in homes and offices. Demand, of course, tends to rise heading into the hottest part of a summer day. On Aug. 21, it developed a weird U-shaped dip over a two-hour period across the country.

This was a bummer for traders who'd bet prices would jump as a whole load of solar-produced megawatts faded to black. "If anything, it was bearish from a trading perspective because people were more busy looking at the eclipse and talking about the eclipse," said Tom Hahn, vice president of U.S. power derivatives at brokerage ICAP Energy LLC in Durham, North Carolina.

Spot power in California fell to negative levels as the eclipse wiped out and restarted thousands of megawatts of solar power, and they also dipped from Texas to New York. While natural gas demand rose to a one-month high that day, spot prices at several hubs weakened versus the U.S. benchmark.

The outage of renewable resources, fossil fuel or nuclear generation can send prices shooting up by hundreds of dollars within minutes. But grid operators, utilities and electricity generators had been planning for months to make up for big swings in supplies. Add that pesky human factor and, oops.

"The eclipse was definitely a distraction to the market," Hahn said.

Read Full Article

Here's How Energy Traders Got the Eclipse So Wrong