MISO’s coal plant capacity factors jumped in spring 2013

Natural gas prices in the Midcontinent ISO region averaged $4.13 per MMBtu in the March-May spring period of this year, up 84% from last spring, when they averaged just $2.25, leading to a resurgence of coal-fired power in the region.

That was among the points made by Potomac Economics, the Independent Market Monitor for MISO, in a report filed July 8 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The report added that natural gas prices in the March-May quarter were 19% higher than the $3.46 winter average.

As for coal prices, Illinois Basin prices declined 11% from last spring to $1.80 per MMBtu. Western (Powder River Basin) coal prices, however, rose another 9% from winter to $0.62 per MMBtu, and are 29% higher than last spring.

“The continued rise in gas prices has resulted in a nearly complete reversion of the generation changes observed last spring, when very low natural gas prices doubled the capacity factors for gas-fired resources from the prior year’s levels,” the report added.

The report shows, for example, capacity factors for coal plants in MISO at roughly 54% in April of this year, up sharply from about 46% in April 2012 and about even with April 2011. Gas-fired combined-cycle units in MISO, on the other hand, averaged about a 25% capacity factor in April of this year, down from about 33% in April 2012, but up from about 14% in April 2011.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.