Outages top 750,000, power demand and natural gas prices sink
Houston — As Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas and Virginia Friday, the number of customers without power topped 750,000, which sapped power demand in much of the region, cutting power burn and natural gas prices.
However, forecasts for above-normal temperatures strengthened balance-of-week power prices in next week’s forecast storm path in the Northeast.
The National Hurricane Center at 2 pm EDT reported Florence as a Category 1 storm, midway between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph moving west at around 5 mph. Rainfall totals exceeding 16 inches had so far been reported across southeastern North Carolina.
As of about 4 pm EDT, utilities reported the following outage numbers:
Duke Energy: 406,872
North Carolina Electric Cooperatives: 246,986
Santee Cooper: 38,625
Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina: 29,867
Horry (South Carolina) Electric Cooperative: 25,348
South Carolina Electric & Gas: 1,700
Dominion Energy: 1,395
The peakload forecast for Friday for all of North Carolina was for 28.9 GW, down from about 39.2 GW last Friday, the US Energy Information Administration reported. The peakload for the Duke Energy Progress region of eastern North Carolina, which bore the initial brunt of the storm, was forecast to peak at about 7.5 GW Friday, down from an actual maximum of about 11.1 GW last Friday.
Hurricane Arthur, which hit the Carolinas in July 2014, is the most recent comparable storm, which cut power burn by about 1 Bcf/d before beginning to recover, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.
Duke Energy has projected that between 1 and 3 million of its customers may lose power due to Florence, and it may take “not days, but weeks” to restore service to some of those locations.
Santee Cooper, which serves much of the South Carolina coastal area hit hardest by the storm, had to recall some its workers from efforts to restore service Friday morning because of high winds.
NATURAL GAS PRICE EFFECTS
The reduced power demand has had an effect on spot natural gas markets. Transco Zone 5 South, which covers the Carolinas, was down sharply Friday, trading at about $2.83/MMBtu after falling 10 cents.
Prices in production areas were also coming off. For example, Dominion South fell about 8 cents to $2.22/MMBtu.
The area initially affected by the storm is dominated by vertically integrated utilities, which tend to have an illiquid bilateral power market.
Farther south, the Into Georgia Transmission weekend on-peak package was offered in the high $40s/MWh, with its day-ahead off-peak package traded in the low $20s/MWh, $3 lower than Thursday.