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.