EUROPEAN POWER PRICES UP
BLOOMBERG - Aug 11, 2022 - European power prices rose to fresh records on Thursday as a blistering rally showed no signs of abating.
The gains reflect a tight market for natural gas -- used to fuel power plants -- as Russia cuts supplies just as Europe works to replenish stockpiles for winter. A drop in nuclear-reactor output, as well as low wind and hydro generation, has exacerbated the squeeze, raising the specter of intervention to reduce demand.
“If Russia cuts off the gas and there might not be enough gas for the whole demand, then there would be rationing,” Annegret Groebel, president of the Council of European Energy Regulators, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Blackouts “can be avoided, but of course it requires a lot of preparatory work that we are currently doing.”
Benchmark German power for next year rose as much as 4.5% to a record 446 euros a megawatt-hour on the European Energy Exchange. The French contract was up as much as 4.4%, rising above 600 euros for the first time. That’s more than $1,000 for the equivalent energy of a barrel of oil.
Heat waves this summer have intensified demand while adding to supply disruptions, with key waterways -- which are used to generate hydropower, cool nuclear plants and ship energy commodities -- drying up.
France is in a particularly dire situation, as more than half of its nuclear fleet is offline for maintenance. Normally the nation would be exporting power, but this year it has become a net importer, leading neighboring countries to burn more gas to keep the lights on.
“Historically-low nuclear power output and low hydro reservoirs across Europe are leaving a shortfall in supply that can only be met with dispatchable sources like coal and gas,” said Patricio Alvarez, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “This adds to the resilience of gas demand at a time of dwindling supply from Russia.”