New energy market reports covering the first quarter of 2018
The European Commission’s latest reports on gas and electricity markets, which cover the first quarter of 2018, have just been published, containing a wide range of data about supply and usage of electricity and gas in the EU.
The electricity market report confirmed that electricity prices in most of Europe were relatively low at the beginning of the first quarter of 2018 wholesale, primarily thanks to mild weather conditions and abundant wind power generation. Nuclear capacities in France that were taken off the grid in the previous two quarters for safety inspections were back, ensuring a well-supplied wholesale electricity market in Central and Western Europe.
However, in late February and early March a short-lived cold spell significantly affected many of the wholesale electricity markets, as the cold weather resulted in increasing heating related electricity needs and a sudden spike on major European natural gas hubs, contributing to increasing electricity generation costs and market prices. In spite of decreasing coal prices, the profitability of coal-fired generation further deteriorated in most of Europe. In Spain, after a long dry period, hydro generation picked up again, contributing to decreasing electricity prices in March 2018. In contrast, as hydro reserve levels in the Nordic markets were lower than usual, wholesale electricity prices went up in this region.
The gas market report shows how the growth of gas consumption seen in the last three years continued in 2018, with demand increasing by 4% in the first quarter year-on-year. A late-winter cold spell in February and March was instrumental in this increase in gas use.
The late-winter cold spell, coupled with dwindling stock levels, also resulted in skyrocketing gas prices at the beginning of March. Storage withdrawals reached record levels, providing a key source of gas supply during this period. Prices provided the right signal to market participants and gas supplies were not interrupted.