If you have ever wanted to understand changes in your suppliers’ electricity costs, you might find this U.S. federal government website useful. It identifies regions and ‘hubs’. The best news is that pricing for most hubs is free and a matter of public record.
China announced Monday that its gross domestic product growth slowed to 7.5% in the three months ended in June. Its economic growth is still strong, compared with much of the world. But recent single-digit expansion rates are a notable comedown from a 14.2% peak in 2007.
Unlike so often in the past, though, the Chinese leadership shows little inclination to act. Indeed, the mood in Beijing is studiedly sanguine. Not only did the national statistics bureau describe yesterday’s figures as “within the reasonable range for the year”. Finance Minister Lou Jiwei even hinted, last week, that growth could drop well below 7 per cent over the coming months (although his remarks were later airbrushed into line with the official 7.5 per cent target by the state news agency).
The biggest losers from China’s rebalancing are likely to be the major commodity-producing emerging markets, most of which lie in Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Africa, but China’s slowdown will impact on different commodity groups in different ways.
Temperatures around the U.S. have been as high as 65 degrees Fahrenheit (19.4 Celsius) above normal in the past week, with 400 record highs set yesterday, said Laura Furgione, deputy director of the National Weather Service.
Warmer temperatures across the U.S. in the last three months has “decimated the market” for natural gas, said Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and reduced the need for all types of energy for heating. The trend is expected to continue through May in the eastern U.S. as well as the Southwest.
Mirroring the gas market, wholesale electricity prices have dropped more than 50 percent on average since 2008, and about 10 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a Jan. 11 research report by Aneesh Prabhu, a New York-based credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC.
Prices in the west hub of PJM Interconnection LLC, the largest wholesale market in the U.S., declined to about $39 per megawatt hour by December 2011 from $87 in the first quarter of 2008.
The electrical grid is commonly cited as a potential security issue for the U.S. and in a wide-ranging study on the matter, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that the time has come for the U.S. government to focus a single agency’s efforts on doing a better job of securing it.
The issue, MIT‘s researchers say, is that the many stakeholders involved in maintaining the U.S. electrical grid aren’t working together, even though “cybersecurity regulations for bulk power systems already exist in the form of the NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection reliability standards.” For one, the researchers point out, those standards only apply to “the bulk power system and does not include the distribution system.” Distribution utilities on the local level are operating outside current regulations, making managing the entire grid practically impossible, the researchers added.