Accounting for fuel price risk: Using forward natural gas prices instead of gas price forecasts to compare renewable to natural gas-fired generation
Description: Against the backdrop of increasingly volatile natural gas prices, renewable energy resources, which by their nature are immune to natural gas fuel price risk, provide a real economic benefit. Unlike many contracts for natural gas-fired generation, renewable generation is typically sold under fixed-price contracts. Assuming that electricity consumers value long-term price stability, a utility or other retail electricity supplier that is looking to expand its resource portfolio (or a policymaker interested in evaluating different resource options) should therefore compare the cost of fixed-price renewable generation to the hedged or guaranteed cost of new natural gas-fired generation, rather than to projected costs based on uncertain gas price forecasts. To do otherwise would be to compare apples to oranges: by their nature, renewable resources carry no natural gas fuel price risk, and if the market values that attribute, then the most appropriate comparison is to the hedged cost of natural gas-fired generation. Nonetheless, utilities and others often compare the costs of renewable to gas-fired generation using as their fuel price input long-term gas price forecasts that are inherently uncertain, rather than long-term natural gas forward prices that can actually be locked in. This practice raises the critical question of how these two price streams compare. If they are similar, then one might conclude that forecast-based modeling and planning exercises are in fact approximating an apples-to-apples comparison, and no further consideration is necessary. If, however, natural gas forward prices systematically differ from price forecasts, then the use of such forecasts in planning and modeling exercises will yield results that are biased in favor of either renewable (if forwards < forecasts) or natural gas-fired generation (if forwards > forecasts). In this report we compare the cost of hedging natural gas price risk through traditional gas-based hedging instruments (e.g., futures, swaps, and fixed-price physical supply ...
Date: August 13, 2003
Creator: Bolinger, Mark; Wiser, Ryan & Golove, William
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