Multiple supply and demand factors affect seasonal natural gas and electricity spot prices across the country:
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Two ruthless surges of arctic air, east of the Rockies, have taken over the eastern half of the country this month. The latest forecasts suggest that this weather pattern will continue to linger through the end of the month. Sub-zero temperatures are expected in the upper Midwest cities and the great lakes, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit and possible below zero temperatures as far south as the Ohio River. Factoring in wind chill, temperatures are expected to be 20 or 30 degrees below zero. This weekend a couple of Canadian clippers will be followed by another arctic surge through mid-next week with conditions that could rival those from January 6, 2014. A Canadian clipper (a.k.a Alberta clipper) is a storm system during the winter months that originates from the Canadian Province of Alberta (or there close by). The term "clipper" originates from the quick speeds of clipper sailing ships. Thus, an Alberta clipper is a quick-moving winter storm system originating from Alberta, Canada. A clipper will usually bring smaller bursts of snow (generally 1-3 inches) along with colder temperatures and often times gusty winds (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
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The U.S. 2011/2012 winter was the fourth warmest on record. NE energy end users who were exposed to the spot market were rewarded with very low prices. Nevertheless, the U.S. 2012/2013 winter was significantly colder despite being the twentieth warmest winter on record. Despite a mild winter start, last January had a large number of days below freezing and February was the fifth snowiest on record. Consequently, natural gas and electricity end users in NE who were exposed to index prices, found themselves facing significantly higher energy costs on the spot market. During these two months, unusually cold temperatures triggered price spikes due to forced plant outages, which caused reliability problems within the grid. To circumvent these issues, the entity responsible for maintaining electric reliability, the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE), was forced to dispatch higher cost power plants. The chart below shows historical monthly Real-Time prices across multiple Load Zones. Across these Load Zones, the average prices for the months of January 2013 and February 2013 were $83.54/MWh and $107.49/MWh. These prices were significantly higher than this period the previous year.
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