Hill Vaden (00:06):
All right. Welcome back to Energy Cents, an IHS Markit podcast, devoted to covering topics that lie on the intersection of finance and energy markets. I'm Hill Vaden, here today as usual, with Breanne Dougherty. Breanne, how are you?
Breanne Dougherty (00:17):
I'm great, Hill. Doing pretty good. What's today, Thursday?
Hill Vaden (00:24):
I think so.
Breanne Dougherty (00:25):
That's always nice. We're getting close to the end of the week.
Hill Vaden (00:25):
Yeah. Another long weekend with a Labor Day.
Breanne Dougherty (00:30):
I know you got to live for them, right?
Hill Vaden (00:31):
Yeah. Sadly though, summer's almost over and school is in some ways back in session in some ways, not at all normal.
Breanne Dougherty (00:39):
Very true. Although I will say, I live in New York and you're definitely seeing some shifts in the neighborhood as kids have rolled back to start school, but also the playground action has shifted in time like what times are busy at the playground now. It's a whole new universe that we're trying to navigate this week as opposed to last week. These are the exciting times I live at the moment, shifts in playground time schedules.
Hill Vaden (01:08):
I'm sure it only gets better and only more normal.
Breanne Dougherty (01:12):
Here's hoping. Although last night I went around to the drugstore quickly and there was these mobs of people walking around and I don't know what's going on. It's obviously in some paparazzi cameras or whatever, so it must be somebody. And then they just start randomly chasing a car. And I'm thinking, "Who could possibly be in this car?" I'm in there buying some stuff from the drug store, and I asked the woman and I said, "These mobs of people, who's possibly staying at the hotel that's across the street where sometimes some famous people stay?" And she said, "Oh, it's The Weekend. He's been there since the MTV Video Awards the other night. And now people have figured out that he's there."
Breanne Dougherty (01:53):
Obviously I'm completely out of touch. I know he must be popular, but wow. I did not expect the hysteria that was happening. People running with records, like with album covers that they obviously wanted him to sign through the streets. It was nuts. Hill Vaden (02:05): I didn't know MTV was having music awards.
Breanne Dougherty (02:09):
Yeah. So they did it, I think with a lot of green screens and stuff, and I think they filmed it part of it over by Hudson Yards and over by the IHS Markets offices actually, probably was where it was. They kept everybody distant. Lady Gaga wore a quite elaborate mask system when she appeared on it, not surprisingly.
Hill Vaden (02:32):
Lets maybe use that as a segue to introduce our two guests. We've got Doug Guiffre and Wade Shafer, from IHS Market's Power Team to talk with us today about the recent challenges to the California power markets. Related to music awards, Wade covers West coast and Doug covers the East coast. So we've got a bit of Biggie, Tupac thing going here. Welcome guys.
Wade Shafer (03:05):
Thanks, Hill. Thanks for having us.
Hill Vaden (03:07): Yeah.
Doug Giuffre (03:08):
Thank you. Happy to be here.
Hill Vaden (03:11):
We're glad to have you. Doug, you may be used to having paparazzi, I guess it's plural. You're a football announcer in Southern Ohio.
Doug Giuffre (03:23):
Yeah I lacked the football knowledge to coach football, so the only way I can remain involved those two amounts during the games, the youth football games. I'm trying to keep the dream alive.
Hill Vaden (03:34):
Indeed. Are you in a small enough area where people recognize your voice when you go through a drive through or something like that?
Doug Giuffre (03:42):
Hardly, but I am heckled none the less.
Breanne Dougherty (03:49):
It's nice to have a celebrity on our podcast for once.
Hill Vaden (03:51):
Breanne Dougherty (03:52):
Particularly exciting, now. It's a long weekend coming up. We've got a celebrity, I don't know.
Hill Vaden (03:57):
Yeah, absolutely. I guess we should do a warning to other listeners out there, we may end up spoiling Frozen II, or the ending of Frozen II, as we have our discussion with particularly Wade who, as we were preparing for this conversation, Wade introduced us to I guess it was maybe not so subtle a commentary on power markets in Frozen II, Wade?
Wade Shafer (04:27):
Yes. Spoiler alert, but yes for those energy professionals out there, Frozen II was a great case study in electricity markets for sure. And carbon free electricity at that.
Hill Vaden (04:39):
And to a degree, because I watched it last night in preparation.
Wade Shafer (04:43):
What did you think?
Hill Vaden (04:45):
I thought it was I'll say good, not great. I told Breanne this morning that I found myself, after the movie and then we put the kids to bed, I spent way too long on YouTube watching Peter Cetera and Chicago music videos because so much of the songs were like this, what's the adult contemporary for particularly the guy with the reindeer, when he's singing about how he wants to marry Anna?
Breanne Dougherty (05:20):
The power ballad was strong.
Wade Shafer (05:23):
The power ballad, yeah that song.
Hill Vaden (05:26):
[inaudible 00:05:26] that would be a [inaudible 00:05:27] too. Glory of Love? I don't remember the name of the song.
Wade Shafer (05:35):
Power of Love.
Hill Vaden (05:36):
No, that's Huey Lewis, isn't it?
Wade Shafer (05:41):
Well, maybe you're right.
Hill Vaden (05:43):
Whatever it is. It's, Peter Cetera, it's ex Chicago faces. And it's the one with a Karate Kid II, which I suppose is another sequel with Frozen. And we've got another sequel happening right now in California, I'm not sure energy crisis is the right word for it, for what's happening now. But that was what sparked this that this podcast, no pun intended. Wade, you put out a report maybe a month or two ago or two, two weeks ago, I guess, looking at what's going on in California. I don't cover the power markets closely, I come from a background of oil and gas coverage. Can you maybe help to explain to us what's going on in California power right now and how it's either different to what happened in 2001 or similar?
Wade Shafer (06:36):
Sure. A mini crisis, perhaps, maybe a Friday surprise. On August 14th a lot of people live in California about 400,000 people. That evening, probably watching Netflix or whatever, which is what I do on my evenings in this current world, found that interrupted by the lights going out. So, on Friday, August 14th, somewhat surprised with no warning, the power grid operator called CAISO, which you might hear us mention, they had to cut one gigawatt of power. At the time, electricity demand was about 40 gigawatts. So they had to turn off the lights for about one gigawatt worth of customers in the market for two hours. That's because there weren't enough power plants available to supply that electricity to the customers.
Wade Shafer (07:31):
In power there, up until recently, there really hasn't been storage. Other commodities you can store and tap it or pull it out when you need it, but for electricity, you need to create it when you need it. And so if you can't create it when you need it, that can either lead to cascading outages, which is really bad, or it could lead to the grid operator voluntarily cutting off power to some customers to bring demand back down, to align with supply. That's what happened in California that Friday evening, of August 14th.
Hill Vaden (08:04):
You said, it's a surprise that the residents were not aware of was going to happen?
Wade Shafer (08:09):
Right. The residents weren't aware, the governor wasn't aware, apparently, until it happened. I don't think there were alerts either from the grid operator and up until it was about to happen. So, it was somewhat of a surprise. It was the hottest day up until that point in California and the previous day was also hot, and the forecast was hot. So, the temperatures were rising and when temperatures rise, electricity demand rises too, because of all the air conditioning. Somewhat surprisingly at the time, when electricity demand was cresting or near its crest at 7:00 PM, there weren't enough power plants available to meet it. And so they had to turn off the lights for a couple hours.
Hill Vaden (08:56):
Up and down the state, or what was it confined to a few major areas?
Wade Shafer (09:02):
So it does spread it out. But it was up and down the state. So San Diego, Los Angeles, and then other parts of Southern California, Northern California lost power. So they try to rotate it across customers. So not the same people that aren't impacted for the same amount of time. So they were doing it about one hour bursts. And so it's part of utility contingency plannings. They have plans in place. If this emergency situation do arise, to take certain sections of the grid offline. And they try to avoid hospitals or other sensitive locations that would really rather not have their power cut. They try to avoid that and spread out the inconvenience.
Wade Shafer (09:44):
And again, ultimately it's to keep the grid operating, to avoid a uncontrolled outage that could affect a lot more people for a lot longer point in time. It was done in a controlled manner to help make sure that most people could keep their electricity and then also bring it back as soon as they're able to two hours later.
Breanne Dougherty (10:03):
So, the fact that the notice hadn't gone out prior to it happening, does that indicate that it was controlled, but maybe last minute controlled? Do they normally put out notifications?
Wade Shafer (10:21):
Typically there's some warning that things are getting tight. You can look at where demand's heading, situational awareness, somewhat aware of where power plants are operating, which ones are available, which aren't available. For example on Thursday, September 3rd, heading into the holiday weekend, just this afternoon, CAISO issued a notice that said, "Hey, everyone, things are heating up again in California. Things are going to get tight this weekend through I think, Tuesday next week. And so everyone be aware we might have to do this again. And hey everyone out there who owns power plants, we really need you. So do everything you can to be available in the evening when everyone wants to sit and eat dinner, watch Netflix and cool off in air conditioning."
Wade Shafer (11:15):
So we'll see how things shake out this coming weekend. But yes, typically you get a notice like this beforehand, but on Friday, August 14th, there really wasn't much warning, when all of a sudden a grid operators realized they couldn't meet demand at 7:00 PM.
Hill Vaden (11:35):
This happened what, 20 years ago. Is what's driving these disruptions, the same things as it was then, or was this a new trigger?
Wade Shafer (11:49):
This is different. Back then was the early days of deregulation. A historical context, electricity has been and still is a highly regulated industry. It used to be uniformly, completely regulated by the government. So you'd have a regulated monopoly all across the country. And political regulator would oversee a company that owns the power plants and owns all the power lines and creates the power and sends it to the customer. One entity would own all that. But at the beginning of the 21st century and the late 1990s economists developed plans to deregulate electricity markets to bring some free market forces to try to lower costs and use markets to try to more efficiently supply power to the customers and lower the cost of electricity.
Wade Shafer (12:55):
And so California back in 2001 was in the early days of this new world. And at that point there were issues with the market structure, market design, policy. Some companies like Enron that most people were familiar with, their actions within the market construct contributed to the tight conditions and the ongoing outages. Whereas this time, it was much smaller. So only one gigawatt out of 40 gigawatts. A relatively small percentage. And it was very short, two hours on Friday on Saturday, August 15th, it was 20 minutes. So it was really just a unique, or hopefully somewhat unique circumstance where we're sort of conditions aligned to lead to a supply shortfall and the need to cut power temporarily to customers.
Breanne Dougherty (13:52):
But does it point to any weaknesses within the grid, within CAISO specifically? Is there things that have been happening within the grid itself or changes in the generation profile for instance that are making maybe the region more vulnerable to this going forward? Or is it really a one off?
Wade Shafer (14:09):
It's not necessarily more vulnerable. California has a renewable portfolio standard. And so that's a state law that requires utilities and load serving entities. So it's not just utilities, but there are other electricity providers in the state, like competitive retailers are these things called community choice, aggregators, which are municipal, sort of proxy government organizations that supply energy to customers and state. All those folks are responsible for covering a certain percentage of the retail sales from renewable sources of power. 33% of their electricity supply has to come from renewables at the end of this year. That's up from decades ago when there wasn't this policy.
Wade Shafer (14:59):
So the California power market is decarbonizing with more and more renewables. California is on the leading edge all across the world with advancing renewable power and sourcing more electricity from renewables. And renewables are variable because they're not controlled by a mechanical device. Solar generation depends on sunshine. You can't really control the sun. Mr. Burns tried to and failed at doing that. You need to operate your power system and build infrastructure and run infrastructure around these variable resources.
Wade Shafer (15:40):
So what happened on August 14th was an example where solar was coming down. So 7:00 PM, the sun is very low in the sky. Solar output is very low. And wind is usually coming up at that time. What happened on Friday was that wind was a lot lower than it usually is. That wind shortfall from what was expected or what is typically expected in the evening in the summer, that contributed to most of the one gigawatt gap. But then there are other factors at play.
Wade Shafer (16:13):
Like there were about five gigawatts of power plants that were offline, not available, which isn't out of the ordinary. They have to go offline for maintenance. And it's no different than historically what's offline on a summer afternoon. But that five gigawatts, some chunk of them really would have come in handy since only one gigawatt was needed to keep the lights on. But with the wind shortfall and some of these power plants offline, that led to the grid operator having the cut power for those two hours.
Hill Vaden (16:46):
And Doug, when you're covering some of these East coast markets, I think you focus on PGM and some of the other. Are you watching, are you paying attention to what's happening in California? I'm sure you are. But how is what's happening in California influencing what's going on in the East coast, if at all?
Doug Giuffre (17:04):
Yeah. Power markets throughout Eastern United States and in the south tend to look at what happens in California, because they have, as Wade pointed out, been at the leading edge deregulation, leading edge of decarbonization. And there's always lessons to be learned, and it's not just East coast markets, European power markets often look to what's happening in the US power markets, Canadian grid operators, try and understand from lessons learned here.
Doug Giuffre (17:36):
And that's why this is so relevant. Because as Wade's pointed out, this isn't necessarily because of wind or they've pushed renewables too aggressively. That has been some hard takes that you've seen in the industry and the popular press. It's more complicated than that. But nevertheless, there is concern among grid operators, because I think it's well understood within the industry that as you grow, intermittent variable resources, so wind and solar, as Wade pointed out, they're not controllable.
Doug Giuffre (18:08):
As they grow to be 25%, 50%, 75% of the energy or capacity on the grid, you need systems that are very flexible because the load doesn't respond to that quickly. When the sun goes down, we know we need other resources available. If suddenly wind speeds slow down, you don't have the wind available, you need other resources that can pick up the ball.
Doug Giuffre (18:34):
Texas was a good example last year, where they've got a very complicated market where they just rely totally on price fluctuations to incentivize developers. There's not as much administrative oversight as we have in Eastern markets or in California. So they were going through late August and wind speeds were fairly high, getting a lot of output on the grid. And then wind slowed down pretty sharply, and the wind output, wind generation available to the grid, declined.
Doug Giuffre (19:09):
The amount of surplus generation that you typically need was shrunk very dramatically and power prices skyrocketed. Now that is part of the design of Texas. That is kind of how they plan the market. They want those high prices that sends a signal to developers to build. But I think it reinforces the idea that this is very complex, you can have sudden changes, and if you don't have well-designed grid with a lot of resources available, you can find yourself short.
Doug Giuffre (19:42):
To answer your question, I think grid operators in the East recognize that decarbonization is underway, pretty aggressively the last five years. But many utilities, many States have targets that are full decarbonization in some cases, in some States regions. They recognize this challenge is coming and so they're always watching California to see what lessons may be learned from their experience. And I think this will be another example of the entire industry is going to study what happened here and see what lessons they can learn in California, what changes need to be made.
Breanne Dougherty (20:22):
Hill Vaden (20:25):
[inaudible 00:20:25] this is still rather recent, it's only a couple of weeks old. But are you sensing a new caution from anybody on the East coast or was some of this expected and for those in the know kind of baked in plans?
Doug Giuffre (20:42):
Wade and I did a webinar. Wade wrote a paper last year talking about the coming challenge in California and in the desert Southwest, Arizona, New Mexico. Part of it was a state mandate to close down some natural gas plants. And there were significant plans to build, bring in replacement capacity. Some of that has been slow to enter the market. And so Wade identified this looming challenge. I don't think that it was, I don't want to say unexpected, clearly, no one expected there to be outages like this happening in the summer. But people recognize that the risk level was elevated. The margins had gotten so tight.
Doug Giuffre (21:26):
We're not there on the East coast, these markets largely are very oversupplied. That doesn't mean you can't have events. In the East, the concern more recently has been in the winter time. In the PJM market, I follow, we had the 2014 Polar Vortex, where coal stacks froze, gas pipelines were constrained. There were a lot of fossil generators unavailable. That sparked significant reforms for the grid operators to increase the penalties for generators that aren't available and also encourage performance. So there's bonus payments available to them.
Doug Giuffre (22:05):
So that event prompted significant reforms to the markets. Wade, in his paper, has outlined some things we may see happen in California that maybe can kind of alleviate this in the future. That may be the incorrect way to say it, to maybe temp down the risk.
Breanne Dougherty (22:22):
And what would those be, Wade?
Wade Shafer (22:23):
In this case, instead of the East learning from the West, perhaps the West can learn from the East. In California, the power plant owners, they don't really have any skin in the game when it comes to not being able to meet load, like Doug was just talking about. So, in some of the Eastern markets there's financial risk to the plant operators or owners, if they're not available during a system emergency like California declared, or CAISO declared. If they're not available in the East, they pay a pretty hefty penalty for not being around when they're needed.
Wade Shafer (23:01):
In California, that penalty structure doesn't exist. So, once a power plants contracted by the utilities, the power plant owners they have some obligations they need to bid into the market, but they don't have explicit penalties for not being available. And in the East the penalties it could be for any reason. So if you're down for maintenance you're still liable for a penalty if you're not available. Whereas in California, again, there were five gigawatts of plant outages. Perhaps there was nothing wrong with that, nothing out of the ordinary. But if it was like the East those plants would, would bear some financial burden for not being available when the CAISO grid really needed them desperately.
Wade Shafer (23:46):
And so that's one possible area of reform that California policy makers could look at. There are others, one is just contracting with power plants further ahead of time. In the East, they lock in power supply from a reliability standpoint making sure they're around, they lock it in three years ahead of time. In California, most of the power plants that they lock in, one year ahead of time, or even a fraction of them a month ahead of time. So there's not a lot of time to realize there's a mismatch and incentivize someone else to come in with a new development, a new project, a new power plant.
Wade Shafer (24:27):
They may look to increase the length of the price signal to get people to react sooner, to this more uncertain, more complex world we're getting to where, probabilities and statistics and everything feed into variable generation rather than more of a deterministic view of, "I have gas in my pipeline. I burn it. I make electricity." It's somewhat certain to a greater degree than knowing if August 14th, 2023, if it's going to be sunny or not. That's less certain. Wade Shafer (25:00): If you can send that price signal three years ahead of time, instead of one year ahead of time, it's really is not long enough to build any new infrastructure of significance. If you can send that sooner, perhaps you can build up your fleet of power plants and not cut things as close as what happened on August 14th.
Doug Giuffre (25:21):
If I could just add onto that, the planning and the capacity market models that are used in say New England and PJM, that use this three year forward auction, that does help to balance out the timing of when resources exit. So if there's a large coal plant or a nuclear facility that is planning to retire, that would be observed in this auction. It would prompt prices to rise, signaling a shortage and new generators can compete to meet that need. And so you know three years in advance, presumably what your balance is going to be, incentives have been made for resources to become available.
Doug Giuffre (26:03):
As it happens., there are some balances there in terms of PJM is among the most oversupplied markets in the country. What we've seen there is, they sit on top of the Marcellus and the Utica shale. You can build a new natural gas plants, quite cheaply there. And they dispatch frequently. So there's been a lot of development activity there in excess, new additions have outpaced retiring coal plants. There's been criticism of that market design, because they're saying there's too much capacity. The market design has overbuilt the system, and ultimately consumers are paying for that. There's folks who are critical of that system as well, saying, "Reliability is valuable, but you may be overpaying for it."
Hill Vaden (26:58):
So, they're paying for the overbuild, just in the rate catch up? Is that how it works?
Doug Giuffre (27:05):
You're right. So that the grid operator will say, for instance, "We need 140,000 megawatts of capacity." And then they'll compete in this auction suppliers to meet that demand. Now, this may be getting too far into the weeds, but they use a downward sloping demand curve. Ultimately, what that means is, although the grid operator set a target for how much supply they want, they can procure more at a lower price. But ultimately the load serving entities are responsible for covering that. And that means consumers.
Doug Giuffre (27:43):
And so there's been folks in the policymakers in Illinois that have been very critical of the market design at PJM. Those folks point to that text as model I spoke about, as maybe that's the right design, where the market is a bit thinner and tighter, but the consumers aren't paying for a lot of excess capacity.
Doug Giuffre (28:06):
My personal view is that Texas model is going to be tested. We thought it would be in 2020, but given the pandemic and a bit more moderate levels of electricity demand, it looks like they'll get through the summer without being truly tested. But in the coming years, we'll really get a good look at how well that market functions.
Breanne Dougherty (28:29):
So has this event changed, do you think, anything to do with the retirement schedule that people sort of baked into the forecast at this point? Do we think that there are shifts that are coming on that maybe keeping some gas beakers around a little longer than maybe it was originally planned? Or was this event not enough to trigger that much of a change?
Wade Shafer (28:48):
That was actually already in motion before this. There's been growing concern about not having enough power capacity in CAISO. I do want to point something out, I keep saying CAISO, instead of California, at least I try to, because the rest of California didn't have a problem August 14th, 15th or beyond. There are other smaller grids within California, like Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is a municipal utility and water provider. Sacramento Municipal Utility District in Sacramento. They run their own grid, they own their own generation, they do the planning and they didn't have an issue. There's questions around that, is there something unique in CAISO that's different from the rest and maybe looking at their peers to figure out ways to improve.
Hill Vaden (29:39):
Is there something unique? Are those smaller? I that part of it that it's easier-
Wade Shafer (29:42):
Yeah, it's smaller. It's probably easier to manage. Smaller, that's probably a big part of it. But again early days after the event, so folks like ourselves will be digging into the details more and looking at those comparisons and figuring out are there lessons to be learned? But as far as the retirements, so they've already backed off some of the retirement's coming for CAISO and they're already planning on doing it before this happened.
Wade Shafer (30:11):
It was actually just approved this week, the first week of September. And so some of the gas plants on the coast, they're subject to environmental rule called the Once-through Cooling rule, which is actually tied to the Federal Clean Water Act. But basically it targets big industrial facilities on the coast that pull ocean water in and cycle it through the plant and then dump it out, back into the ocean when it's hotter. And that has negative environmental effects. Over 10 gigawatts of plants are scheduled to retire in California gas plants that are affected by this rule.
Wade Shafer (30:47):
And a couple of gigawatts of them we're supposed to retire this year. But now it's been delayed for about two, three years, so that there's more time to bring more resources online, particularly more time to build up batteries and switches. Reduce the risk of losing a chunk of capacity while other pieces of capacity are being built. Especially in a world where California is dealing with extreme heat waves, I think Labor Day weekend's, potentially going to be a record heat wave for the state.
Wade Shafer (31:20):
Discussions, is this climate change? And so just given the uncertainty, that's just added uncertainty and complexity. Are summers changing in California? Is the environment changing? To help address that uncertainty alongside the uncertainty with renewable generation, to provide extra cushion, they're going to keep these plants around for a couple more years. We still think they'll retire, and ultimately we think batteries can play quite a large role in incremental capacity. And batteries joining the grid and pairing with the installed gas fleet that are existing California, batteries can help provide that incremental, that additional firm capacity cushion to help with balancing renewables and meeting reliability objectives going forward.
Breanne Dougherty (32:12):
So if we're talking about new build then, or any greenfield power generation development, is it at this point all renewable and battery based? Not just in California or just in CAISO, but more broadly across the US. Are there regions where we are seeing still... I know the answer to some of this, but I'll let you guys being the experts on power explain that. But from a gas perspective, obviously coal, I don't expect much growth there, but where's their role still for gas either within these grids themselves or around the rest of the US and can batteries really provide the backfill for widespread gas retirement at this point?
Wade Shafer (33:00):
I'll start with California and then I'll turn it over to Doug, for California, about half the power generation fleet in California is gas today. And going forward with California's ultimate goal to get to a 100% carbon free power generation by 2045. Going forward, the preference is going to be for non-carbon emitting resources. Renewables continue to be added and they'd provide low cost energy, energy being one piece to what you need in a power system. But you need capacity, which is this reliability question. You need to have the power plants there to turn up when demand is going up and have it all come together.
Wade Shafer (33:49):
And so renewables provide a little bit of capacity, but really ultimately you need something that's dispatchable. It's looking to be largely batteries in California for incremental, dispatchable generation capacity. And with the high levels of solar in California. Solar, I don't know, it's maybe 15%, 20% something like that of generation. It keeps growing, so it keeps going up every year considering how sunny California is, and it's pretty cheap.
Wade Shafer (34:23):
But with solar playing such a large role in the power supply, it actually leads the conditions that actually improve the competitiveness of batteries. So the solar build, which is being built for energy, changes the variables in a way that actually favors battery developers to come in and build batteries. Batteries should be able to get us into the evening and cover demand. That's the situation in California. And gas will gradually retire, but we need gas. And it's going to be a mix of renewables, batteries and gas that allows California to keep lowering its carbon emissions.