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Analys

SEB Jordbruksprodukter, 6 maj 2013

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SEB Veckobrev med prognoser på jordbruksråvaror

SEB - Prognoser på råvaror - CommodityUSA var kallt och vått förra veckan, med frost och snö på många håll, ända nere i Texas. I torsdags fick norra Mellanvästern 35 cm snö. Höstvetets kondition försämrades i måndagens rapport från 35% ”good” och ”excellent condition” till 33% (redan innan förra veckans snö och frost). Sådden av majs ökade med bara 1% till veckan innan förra veckan, till rekordlåga 5%. Antagligen har väldigt lite blivit sått i veckan som gick. Det får vi facit på i kväll. Sojabönor har ännu inte kommit igång med sådden. Allt annat lika bör en allt för stor försening av majssådden leda till att sojabönor vinner areal.

Tendens för priser på jordbruks-råvarorWASDE-rapporten kommer på fredag och nästa veckas brev kommer därför att innehålla en genomgång av den.

Den som vill lyssna på en tvåtimmars genomgång av WASDE-rapporten, och hur man analyserar marknaden samt placerar framgångsrikt i marknaden genom certifikat, är välkommen till ett seminarium hos SEB i Malmö.

Odlingsväder

USA var kallt och vått med frost och snö ända nere i Texas. 35 cm snö föll i torsdags över norra Mellanvästern. Kanada var varmare och torrare. I Europa var det lite nederbörd i norr, men desto mer på den södra halvan av kontinenten. Australien var huvudsakligen fortsatt torrt.

Nedan ser vi prognostiserad avvikelse från normal temperatur i USA.

Karta över odlingsväder i USA

Nedan ser vi prognostiserad avvikelse från normal nederbörd i Europa.

Karta över odlingsväder i Europa

World Ag Weather publicerar även avvikelser från det normala för regn och temperatur för viktiga jordbruksområden. De har till och med bemödat sig om att vikta avvikelsen efter jordbruksareal. Vi ser att större delen av jorden är kallare än normalt. Vissa delar av Argentina har fått väsentligt mycket mindre nederbörd än normalt och USA tvärtom mycket mer än normalt.

Produktion, area

Vi noterar också att Kina är väsentligt mycket kallare än normalt. Eventuella negativa effekter av det på väntad skörd har än så länge inte blivit kända.

Vete

Priset på november (2013) har stabiliserat sig över 210 euro per ton. Trenden är alltjämt nedåtriktad, men den här sidledes rörelsen är ändå ett observandum. Det är möjligt att pristrenden nedåt håller på att förlora momentum och att en prisuppgång kan ta vid. Det beror helt på vädret. Möjligen kan WASDE-rapporten på fredag bli utslagsgivande.

Analys på vete-pris - Commodity

Decemberkontraktet på CBOT har stigit upp till motståndet på 758 cent per ton. Vi ser att det finns ytterligare ett motstånd på ca 780 cent, om 758 skulle brytas.

Analys på pris av vete-terminen på CBOT

Ser vi på den senaste veckan förändring av terminskurvorna, ser vi att priserna gått upp både i Europa och i USA och ungefär lika mycket på alla löptider.

Vete-terminer

Nedan ser vi Crop condition från förra måndagens rapport.

Crop condition i USA

Måndagens Crop Progress rapport från USDA visar att tillståndet för det amerikanska höstvetet är fortsatt dystert. 35% klassas nu som ”poor/very poor”, en ökning med 2% från veckan innan och att jämföra med 10% vid samma tid förra året. Höstvete klassat som ”good/excellent” har minskat med samma mängd och uppgår nu till 33%, vilket är den lägsta nivån sedan 1996, medan förra årets siffra vid samma tid låg på 64%. Dessutom har endast 14% av höstvetet gått i ax, vilket är långt efter förra årets 55% vid samma tid. I Kansas, den största producenten av HRW vete, backade höstvete i kategorin ”good/excellent” med 3% till 27%.

Diagram för vintervete

Det blöta och kalla vädret fortsätter också att försena de amerikanska lantbrukarnas sådd av vårvete. Endast 12% av sådden var avklarad per den 29 april, vilket är långt under det femåriga genomsnittet på 37%.

USDA crop condition and progress - Vårvete

Crop condition för vintervetet i USA ligger kvar på den historiskt låga nivån, som vi ser i diagrammet nedan. Y-axeln visar hur många procent av arealen som har vete i ”good” eller ”excellent condition”.

Vete-diagram

The Kansas Crop Tour publicerade sin gissning på skörden; endast 313 mbu mot 383 mbu förra året.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission publicerade sitt estimat till 85 mbu mot 155 mbu förra året.

Vi fortsätter, med det observandum vi nämnt ovan, att tro på sidledes eller lägre priser. Uppgångar bör ses som tillfällen att sälja.

Maltkorn

Priset på maltkorn med leverans i november har ännu en vecka fortsatt att visa mer styrka än höstvetet / kvarnvetet på Matif.

Prisdiagram på maltkorn - Commodity

Majs

Majspriset (december 2013) steg kraftigt när vädret slog och om det visade sig att sådden blivit ytterligare försenad. Priset har åtminstone kortsiktigt etablerat sig över 550 cent. Det KAN bli en trendvändning uppåt. Det återstår att se.

Prisdiagram på majs - C Z3

Sådden ligger kraftigt efter i USA. Nedan ser vi såddens framåtskridande i USA. 6-årsintervallet sträcker sig från 2007 till 2012.

Sådden av majs i USA

Medelvärdet för de sex åren 2006 – 2012 är 33% klart. Den långsammaste starten var 2008, när 10% var sått. Nu är det alltså bara 5%, en marginell ökning från 4% en vecka tidigare men fortfarande långt under förra årets 49% vid den här tiden och även under det genomsnittet. Iowa, den största producenten, har nu påbörjat sådden men endast 2% är avklarad så här långt – att jämföra med det femåriga genomsnittet på 36%. Sådden av majs i de två andra stora producentstaterna, Illinois och Indiana, står fortfarande och stampar på 1% då kraftiga regnskurar i kombination med kallare väder än normalt har gjort att många fält fortfarande är alltför blöta.

Nedan ser vi en karta över staterna i ”Corn belt”, färgkodade efter hur många procent som är sått och med procentsiffran på kartan.

Majs-karta - Corn belt USA

Det sägs att den 10 maj är en slags deadline för sådden. Den majs som sås efter det datumet ger lägre avkastning. Farmdoc har emellertid skrivit att även om skörden blir 14% mindre än den skulle blivit enligt den hektarskörd som man räknat med, kommer majsen att räcka till efterfrågan. En av de efterfrågeposter som ökat de senaste åren är efterfrågan till etanol. Den kommer inte att öka i år, eftersom USA redan nått maximal inblandning i bensinen av etanol. Foderefterfrågan kommer också att vara tämligen konstant. Med 14% lägre skörd räcker majsen till efterfrågan och ger en viss ökning av utgående lager, enligt Farmdoc. Det finns alltså en hel del marginal i den väntade skördens storlek.

Sojabönor

Sojabönorna (november 2013) anser jag befinner sig i negativ trend och vi ser en rekyl upp från 1200 cent. En rekyl är en naturlig och temporär fluktuation mot trenden.

Prisdiagram sojabönor

Exporten från Brasilien börjar ta mer fart nu, efter de initiala problemen att få ut nästan 20 miljoner ton mer än förra året. Kinas tillväxt håller på att bromsa in. Nya svaga siffror kom i veckan. Den senaste köttskandalen där fårkött i egentligen kommit från flera andra djur. Det enda som stack ut med sin frånvaro av förklarliga skäl var hund. De här skandalerna och den allt jämt pågående nya fågelinfluensan gör att efterfrågan på soja borde vara dämpad framöver i Kina.

Man kan spekulera i att sojaarealen i USA borde bli större när den inte kan sås med majs. Arealen är antagligen inte utbytbar 1:1, inte minst pga behovet av utsäde. Marken är visserligen kvävegödslad sedan länge, men detta är en ”sunk cost” och även om det inte är till stor nytta för sojabönorna, så är det i vart fall inte till nackdel. Blir det fortsatt kallt drabbar vädret dock även sojaarealen.

Jag skulle passa på och sälja sojabönor på högre priser, eftersom trenden och fundamenta så väl pekar på lägre priser. Jag har svårt att se hur WASDE-rapporten kan bli positiv för marknaden

Raps

I flera veckor har vi noterat att rapspriset byggt upp fallhöjd i förhållande till det allt lägre sojabönspriset. I veckan som gick orkade inte rapsmarknaden hålla emot den kraften med fallande pris som följd. Den lilla nedgång som hittills ägt rum tror vi bara är början på en nedgång, som gör att priset på raps hamnar i paritet med sojapriset igen. Nedan ser vi november-terminens kursutveckling.

Prisdiagram raps

Skulle det tekniska stödet på 415 euro brytas, är detta en rejäl säljsignal. Om WASDE-rapporten är riktigt negativ för sojabönor skulle detta kunna inträffa. I mellantiden vill jag vara fortsatt såld raps.

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Disclaimer

The information in this document has been compiled by SEB Merchant Banking, a division within Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (publ) (“SEB”).

Opinions contained in this report represent the bank’s present opinion only and are subject to change without notice. All information contained in this report has been compiled in good faith from sources believed to be reliable. However, no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made with respect to the completeness or accuracy of its contents and the information is not to be relied upon as authoritative. Anyone considering taking actions based upon the content of this document is urged to base his or her investment decisions upon such investigations as he or she deems necessary. This document is being provided as information only, and no specific actions are being solicited as a result of it; to the extent permitted by law, no liability whatsoever is accepted for any direct or consequential loss arising from use of this document or its contents.

About SEB

SEB is a public company incorporated in Stockholm, Sweden, with limited liability. It is a participant at major Nordic and other European Regulated Markets and Multilateral Trading Facilities (as well as some non-European equivalent markets) for trading in financial instruments, such as markets operated by NASDAQ OMX, NYSE Euronext, London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Börse, Swiss Exchanges, Turquoise and Chi-X. SEB is authorized and regulated by Finansinspektionen in Sweden; it is authorized and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Services Authority for the conduct of designated investment business in the UK, and is subject to the provisions of relevant regulators in all other jurisdictions where SEB conducts operations. SEB Merchant Banking. All rights reserved.

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Analys

A ”Game of Chicken”: How long do you dare to wait before buying?

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

The EUA market rallied 3.4% ydy and is adding another 0.5% this afternoon with EUA Dec-24 at EUR 54.2/ton. Despite the current bounce in prices we think that the ongoing sell-off in EUA prices still has another EUR 10/ton downside from here which will place the low-point of EUA Dec-24 and Dec-25 at around around EUR 45/ton. Rapidly rising natural gas inventory surplus versus normal and nat gas demand in Europe at 23% below normal will likely continue to depress nat gas prices in Europe and along with that EUA prices. The EUA price will likely struggle to break below the EUR 50/ton level, but we think it will break.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities at SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

That said, our strong view is still that the deal of the year is to build strategic long positions in EUA contracts. These certificates are ”licence to operate” for all companies who are participants in the EU ETS irrespective whether it is industry, shipping, aviation or utilities. We have argued this strongly towards our corporate clients. The feedback we are getting is that many of them indeed are planning to do just that with board approvals pending. Issuance of EUAs is set to fall sharply from 2026 onward. The Market Stability Reserve (MSR) mechanism will clean out any surplus EUAs above 833 m t by 2025/26. Medium-term market outlook 2026/27 is unchanged and not impacted by current bearish market fundamentals with fair EUA price north of EUR 100/ton by then. Building strategic long position in EUAs in 2024 is not about pinpointing the low point which we think will be around EUR 45/ton, but instead all about implementing a solid strategic purchasing plan for EUAs for 2024.

The ingredients in the bottoming process will be: 1) Re-start of European industry as energy prices come down to normal, 2) Revival in nat gas demand as this happens, 3) Nat gas prices finding a floor and possibly rebounding a bit as this happens, 4) Asian nat gas demand reviving as nat gas now normally priced versus oil, 5) Strategic purchasing of EUA by market participants in the EU ETS, 6) Speculative buying of EUAs, 7) Bullish political intervention in H2-24 and 2025 as EU economies revive on cheap energy and politicians have 2024-elections behind them.

On #1 we now see calculations that aluminium smelters in Europe now are in-the-money but not restarted yet. On #2 we see that demand destruction (temp. adj.) in Europe is starting to fade a bit. On #3 we have not seen that yet. On #4 we see stronger flows of LNG to Asia. On #5 we see lots of our corporate clients planning to purchase strategically and finding current EUA prices attractive.  On #6 it may be a bit early and so as well for #7.  

For EU ETS participants it may be a ”Game of Chicken”: How long do you dare to wait before buying? Those who wait too long may find the carbon constrained future hard to handle. 

Ydy’s short-covering rally lost some steam this morning before regaining some legs in the afternoon. The EUA Dec-24 ydy rallied 3.4% to EUR 53.97/ton in what looks like a short-covering-rally in both coal, nat gas, power and EUAs. This morning it gave almost all of the gains back again before regaining some strength in the afternoon to the point where it is now up at EUR 54.7/ton which is +1.4% vs. ydy. A weather forecast promising more seasonally normal temperatures and below normal winds could be part of the explanation.

The power market is currently the main driver and nat gas prices the most active agent. The main driver in the EUA market is the power market. When the EUA market is medium-tigh (not too loose and not too tight), then the EUA price will naturally converge towards the balancing point where the cost of coal fired electricity equals the cost of gas fired electricity. I.e. the EUA price which solves the equation: a*Coal_price + b*EUA_price = c*Gas_price + d*EUA_price where a, b, c and d are coefficients given by energy efficiency levels, emission factors and EURUSD fex forward rates. As highlighted earlier, this is not one unique EUA balancing price but a range of crosses between different efficiencies for coal power and gas power versus each other.

Coal-to-gas dynamics will eventually fade as price driver for EUAs but right now they are fully active. Eventually these dynamics will come to a halt as a price driver for the EUA price and that is when the carbon market (EU ETS) becomes so tight that all the dynamical flexibility to flex out of coal and into gas has been exhausted. At that point in time the marginal abatement cost setting the price of an EUA will move to other parts of the economy where the carbon abatement cost typically is EUR 100/ton or higher. We expect this to happen in 2026/27.

But for now it is all about the power market and the converging point where the EUA price is balancing the cost of Coal + CO2 equal to Gas + CO2 as described above. And here again it is mostly about the price of natural gas which has moved most dramatically of the pair Coal vs Gas.

Nat gas demand in Europe is running 23% below normal and inventories are way above normal. And natural gas prices have fallen lower and lower as proper demand recovery keeps lagging the price declines. Yes, demand will eventually revive due low nat gas prices, and we can see emerging signs of that happening both in Europe and in Asia, but nat gas in Europe is still very, very weak vs. normal. But reviving demand is typically lagging in time vs price declines. Nat gas in Europe over the 15 days to 25. Feb was roughly 23% below normal this time of year in a combination of warm weather and still depressed demand. Inventories are falling much slower than normal as a result and now stand at 63.9% vs. a normal 44.4% which is 262 TWh more than normal inventories.

Bearish pressure in nat gas prices looks set to continue in the short term. Natural gas prices will naturally be under pressure to move yet lower as long as European nat gas demand revival is lagging and surplus inventory of nat gas keeps rising rapidly. And falling front-end nat gas prices typically have a guiding effect on forward nat gas prices as well.

Yet lower nat gas prices and yet lower EUA prices in the near term most likely. Nat gas prices in Europe will move yet lower regarding both spot and forwards and the effect on EUA will be continued bearish pressure on prices.

EUA’s may struggle a bit to break below the EUR 50/ton line but most likely they will. EUA prices will typically struggle a bit to cross below EUR 50/ton just because it is a significant number. But it is difficult to see that this price level won’t be broken properly as the bearish pressure continues from the nat gas side of the equation. Even if nat gas prices comes to a halt at current prices we should still see the EUA price break below the EUR 50/ton level and down towards EUR 45/ton for Dec-24 and Dec-25.

The front-year nat gas price is the most important but EUA price should move yet lower even if it TTF-2025 stays unchanged at EUR 27.7/ton. The front-year is the most important for the EUA price as that is where there is most turnover and hedging. The following attractors for the EUA forward prices is with today’s TTF forward price curve (TTF Cal-2025 = EUR 27.7/ton) and today’s forward EURUSD FX curve and with ydy’s ARA coal closing prices. What it shows is that the forward EUA attractors are down at EUR 45/ton and lower.

The front-year Coal-to-Gas differential is the most important ”attractor” for the EUA price (Cal-2025 = average of Dec-24 and Dec-25) and that is down to around EUR 45/ton with a TTF Cal-2025 price of EUR 27.7/ton. The bearish pressure on EUA prices will continue as long as the forward nat gas prices are at these price levels or lower.

The front-year Coal-to-Gas differential is the most important "attractor" for the EUA price
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

And if we take the EUA attractors from all the different energy efficiency crosses between coal and gas then we get an average attractor of EUR 44.2/ton for EUA Cal-2025 (= average of Dec-24 and Dec-25) versus a market price today of EUR 53.9/ton.

Calculating all the energy efficiency crosses between coal and gas power plants with current prices for coal and nat gas for 2025 we get an average of EUR 44.2/ton vs an EUA market price of EUR 53.9/ton. Bearish pressure on EUAs will continue as long as this is the case.

Calculating all the energy efficiency crosses between coal and gas power plants with current prices for coal and nat gas
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blgrg data

Utility hedging incentive index still deeply negative: Utilities have no incentive currently to buy coal, gas and EUAs forward and sell power forward against it as these forward margins are currently negative => very weak purchasing of EUAs from utilities for the time being. 

Utility hedging incentive index
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Natural gas in Europe for different periods with diff between actual and normal decomposed into ”price effect” and ”weather effect”. Demand last 15 days were 23% below normal!

Natural gas demand in Europe
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

Natural gas inventories in Europe vs the 2014-2023 average. Surplus vs. normal is rising rapidly.

Natural gas inventories in Europe vs the 2014-2023 average. Surplus vs. normal is rising rapidly.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

Nat gas inventories in Europe at record high for the time of year. Depressing spot prices more and more. Nat gas prices are basically shouting: ”Demand, demand, where are you?? Come and eat me!”

Nat gas inventories in Europe at record high for the time of year
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data
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Analys

Comfort zone for OPEC+ in 2024 as fundamentals gradually improve in its favor

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Back to its sideways trade range and inching almost unnoticeable higher as the year progresses. Brent crude is up 0.2% this morning to USD 82.7/b along with copper (+0.3%) and Shanghai equities (+1.0%). Brent crude saw some bearish action at the end of last week but it recovered a good portion of that ydy (+1.1%) and then a little more again this morning. With this it has mostly returned back to its sideways trading pattern.

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities at SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Brent crude averaged USD 79.1/b in January. So far in February it has averaged USD 81.5/b and at the moment it trades at USD 82.7/b. Typical market comments these days are along the theme ”looking for direction” or ”waiting for new signals on supply or demand”. But other comments are more attuned to a view that the direction is indeed sideways this year. Argus last week describe the outlook for the supply/demand balance for 2024 as ”almost perfectly aligned” and Goldman adds to this view in a note yesterday with ”oil set to extend its tight trading range”.

Cease-fire in Gaza on Monday 4 March may create a buying opportunity. News this morning is Biden expressing hopes that a cease-fire in Gaza may start as soon as Monday next week. In our view there is basically zero risk premium in the current oil price due to Middle East tensions. So if the oil price sells off on firm news of a cease-fire, then it is probably a good buying opportunity in our view.

We maintain our strong view of an average Brent crude oil price of USD 85/b in 2024. Total US crude and product stocks including SPR has gone flat sideways since the end of 2022, all through 2023 and has continued to do so in 2023. US oil inventories are below where they were one year ago both when SPR is included and excluded. This is a reflection of a global oil market in balance though OPEC+ has indeed been the balancing agent.

For the year to come, total US hydrocarbon liquids production is forecast by the US EIA to go flat sideways until October this year and in Q4-24 US production is forecast to be only 0.1 m b/d above Q4-23. So no damaging super-growth from the US to kill the oil party this year. In its last monthly report the US EIA actually reduced its forecast for US production by 100 k b/d to 22.3 m b/d (all liquids included). Russia’s energy minister, Nikolay Shulginov, stated in Tass news agency recently that he expects Russian oil production to decline to 530 mn ton in 2024 from 523 mn ton in 2023. That’s a decline of 1.3% YoY and would equate to a decline of 120-130 k b/d decline YoY. So neither of these oil producing giants are set to unsettle the global oil market this year with too much supply.

Demand growth looks set to be a normal 1.3 m b/d in 2024. The most bearish on oil demand growth is probably the IEA which predicts demand to grow on by 1.2 m b/d YoY in 2024. The US EIA expects demand to grow by 1.4 m b/d. But if we look closer at the numbers from the IEA it expects demand to rise by 1.6 m b/d YoY from Q4-23 to Q4-24. Together with muted supply from both the US and Russia this year this all sums up to a gradually rising need for oil from OPEC through 2024. This made us write the headline ”Better and better every day” in a crude oil comment in late January. Demand for oil from OPEC doesn’t look stellar. But it looks set to be better and better through the year and that is most definitely a great comfort zone for OPEC+.

Sideways, yes, but normal trade range around the mean is still usually +/- USD 20/b. Amid all the current calmness, let us still not forget that Brent crude usually trades in a range through the year of +/- USD 20/b around the mean as there are always some surprises along the way. We don’t think that the situation in the Middle East will spiral out of control into an all-out regional war involving Iran and resulting in large losses of oil supply to the market. And we don’t think there are much risk premium in current oil prices related to this either. But at times in 2024 it may look like it might happen. And that’s probably when you would see the high price point of the year. Maybe as high as USD 105/b. On the bearish we do not think that we’ll have a major economic slowdown or a recession in 2024. But at times in 2024 it may look like we are about to tip into a major slowdown and that would probably be when you’d see the low price point of the year. Maybe as low as USD 65/b.

Total US crude and product stocks incl. SPR has gone sideways since end of 2022, all through 2023 and so far in 2024. Currently it is only 13 m b above the low-point in late 2022!

Total US crude and product stocks incl. SPR
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

Commercial US crude and product stocks are below normal and below last year.

Commercial US crude and product stocks are below normal and below last year.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

US Commercial oil inventories vs. the 2015-19 average. Still struggling with a significant deficit of middle distillates.

US Commercial oil inventories vs. the 2015-19 average.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg and EIA data

US refinery utilization at very low level vs. normal. Extensive maintenance this spring is expected. Result will be low production of oil products, falling inventories of oil products, higher refining margins but also rising crude stocks.

US refinery utilization at very low level vs. normal.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

US EIA forecast for total US liquids production. To go sideways in 2024 to Oct-2024.

US EIA forecast for total US liquids production
Source: SEB graph and calculations, US EIA data STEO

Strong growth in US supply in 2022 and 2023. But 2024 is only set to grow 0.5 m b/d YoY on average. The growth in 2024 is in part a result of production in 2023 starting low and ending high. But from Jan to Oct 2024 US production will go sideways and only rise by 0.1 m b/d YoY from Q4-23 to Q4-24.

YoY change in total US hydrocarbon liquids production
Source: SEB calculations and graph, US EIA data STEO

Global floating crude stocks at 66 m b and not too far above the more normal 50 m b level.

Global floating crude stocks
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

IEA Feb-2024 OMR: Call-on-OPEC is rising gradually through 2024. Better and better for OPEC every quarter to Q3-24

Source: SEB graph, IEA data
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Analys

The self-destructive force of unregulated solar power

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SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Modifications

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities at SEB
Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

Solar and wind power production has increased rapidly over the latest years as LCOE costs have fallen sharply while government support schemes have given it an extra boost as well. Solar and wind power production is totally unregulated supply. They produce whenever they produce. Fossil power supply on the other hand is fully dispatchable to the degree that we tend to take it for granted. As such we have naturally tended to underestimate the consequences of not having dispatchability in solar and wind power.

When you start out with a large, fossil-based power system it is fairly easy to add unregulated power supply from solar and wind because it can piggyback on the dispatchability and flexibility of the fossil power system. But as the share of unregulated renewable energy rises to a larger and larger share of production, the flexibility in the fossil part of the system naturally gets smaller and smaller. This problem is accentuated further  by the fact that solar power production has a very high concentration of production where 80% of production in a year is produced in only 20% of the hours in the year. Thus fossil flexibility and dispatchability is eroded much faster during these 20% hours.

Power prices typically collapse to zero or negative when demand is fully met or saturated by unregulated power supply. That again implies that solar power profitability collapse as well. And the result of that of course is that the exponential growth in solar power production which we now take for granted and which we expect will lead us all the way to zero emissions could come to a full stop as well.

This is already a rapidly increasing problem in California where more and more renewable energy is denied access to the grid because there simply isn’t enough demand for it just then or because the grid cannot handle it. But it is also becoming an increasing problem in Germany where the strong growth and high concentration of solar power increasingly is destroying the power prices just when they produce the most.

The need for biiiig, cheeeeap grid batteries are now becoming increasingly critical for the the exponential growth in solar and wind power to continue.

We fear that the self-destructive force on power prices, of exponential growth in unregulated solar power, is some kind of Solar-hara-kiri process with respect to its own profitability. And that it has the potential to develop along a curve of ”first gradually, then suddenly”. And when/if that happens the exponential growth in unregulated solar power production should naturally come to a screeching halt.

The resolution of the problem is of course the eventual arrival of biiiig, cheeeap grid batteries which then again will sett solar power production free to resume its exponential growth. 

Feeding solar and wind power supply into a fossil system is easy to start with. Then very difficult. It is easy to build unregulated solar and wind power supply into a flexible fossil system. It is easy to infuse unregulated power supply (Solar and Wind) into a power system where there is lots and lots of fossil based power. Fossil supply can then back-off and make room for solar and wind power whenever the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and then ramp up again when it suddenly disappear.  But when unregulated, renewable energy supply keeps growing it becomes harder and harder to infuse yet more of it into the system as the fossil flexibility is increasingly eroded. That’s when yet more supply of solar and wind is no longer pushing aside fossil supply but instead is starting to destroy their own prices.

Solar power produces 80% of its production during 20% of the hours in the year. Solar power has however a much more tightly focused production profile than wind. In Germany in 2023 some 80% of all solar power production was concentrated on only 20% of the hours of the year. For wind power the 80% share of production was spread out over 50% of the hours in the year. The reason is of course that the wind can blow both summer and winter and night and day. Solar power is instead focused during the day and during summer. It has a much higher concentration of production.

Power prices tend to collapse when demand is fully covered by unregulated power supply. When solar power production grows rapidly in a given power system then its high production concentration will eventually lead to full saturation during certain hours of the year. Demand during these hours will then be fully supplied and covered by unregulated power like solar, wind, run-of-river hydro and other unregulated supply. That is great as it means that the fossil share in these hours then are close to zero.

The problem is that power markets, more than any other commodity market in the world, are extremely sensitive to imbalances in supply and demand. A little bit too little supply and the power price can spike up to close to infinity. A little bit too much supply and the price crashes to zero or negative.

When unregulated power supply reaches full demand saturation during certain hours then power prices tend to collapse because it is so easy to get a little bit too much supply.

It is not a problem when power prices collapse for just a few hours per year. But the number of hours affected is growing rapidly many places. The US EIA highlighted in October 2023 (”Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California”) that this is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in California. Since 2019 the power system operator there has been forced to curtail supply of unregulated power more and more. There simply isn’t enough demand in certain hours to meet the spikes in unregulated supply or the grid isn’t up to the task of distributing the unregulated supply in the system.

So when producers of unregulated supply produces the most they increasingly are denied access to sell it into the grid or if they are allowed to sell it into the grid the price is close to zero or even negative.

US EIA: Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California

US EIA: Solar and wind power curtailments are rising in California
Source: The US EIA in October 2023

Germany is increasingly affected as booming solar production is depressing prices more and more. This is now also a rapidly increasing problem in Germany where rapid growth in supply of solar and wind power together increasingly are forcing power prices lower just when they produce the most.

Average German power prices for hour 1 to 24 for certain periods and years. Highly concentrated supply of solar power during summer and during the day is increasingly forcing power prices towards zero during these periods

Average German power prices for hour 1 to 24 for certain periods and years
Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

It is like ”Solar hara-kiri” when increasing supply of solar power is killing its own prices and profits. It was not a big problem economically when only a few hours are affected. But as more and more hours are affected it is becoming an increasing problem. It is like ”Solar hara-kiri” where rapidly rising supply of solar power is increasingly killing its own prices. With that it is killing its profits. And if profits are killed than new-build and growth in supply will typically slow down rapidly as well. 

This is probably not a big problem globally yet as the global power system is still predominantly fueled by fossil fuels which can back off when renewable energy spikes up. But in certain pockets of the world where penetration of unregulated power supply has reached high levels it is becoming an increasing problem. Like in California and in Germany.

The volume weighted solar power price in September 2023 in Germany had a 38% discount to power prices during non-solar power hours. And the discount looks like it is rapidly getting bigger and bigger.

The monthly average volume weighted solar power price versus the average volume weighted non-solar power price weighted by the inverse profile. In Germany in September 2023 solar power producers only achieved 62% of the average price during hours of the day when the sun wasn’t shining.
The monthly average volume weighted solar power price versus the average volume weighted non-solar power price weighted by the inverse profile.
Source:  Source: SEB graph and calculations and graphs. Based on German 15 min solar power prod. extracted from Blbrg

First gradually, then suddenly. There is a clear risk here that this progresses along a process of ”first gradually, then suddenly”. This is already what we have seen over the past couple of years: The discount for what solar power earns when it produces power versus what the power price is when it is not producing is increasing rapidly as more and more unregulated power supply hits right into the ”demand ceiling”. The inflicted pain from this process so far has to a large degree been masked by incredibly high natural gas prices. So even if the profitability for solar power has been eroding, the average power price in the system has been much higher than usual due to high natural gas and CO2 prices.

Graphing all the individual hourly data for solar power and power demand in Germany in 2022 we see that solar power alone is not yet reaching full saturation versus demand.

Germany 2022: Hourly German power demand and solar power supply in 2022. A total of 8760 hours for each in consecutive order. Her showing only Demand and Solar power production
ourly German power demand and solar power supply in 2022
Source: SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

The unregulated power supply is increasingly hitting the ”demand ceiling”. If we now add all the other sources of unregulated power supply, predominantly offshore and onshore wind and run of river, then we get the following picture where we see that unregulated German power supply increasingly is hitting right up and into the ”demand ceiling”. In those instances there will be no, flexible fossil power supply left to back off and that is typically when power prices collapse or go negative.

Germany 2022:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours for each in consecutive order.
Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

High unregulated power supply saturation vs demand implied lower power prices in 2022. Sorting 8760 individual power prices in Germany from Y2022 from lowest to highest shows that power German power prices were strongly related to the penetration of unregulated power supply. In the following graph, we have  sorted the data from the lowest price to the highest price in the year 2022. Prices were ireasingly depressed when unregulated power penetrated up and into the ”demand ceiling”. Natural gas prices were extreme in 2022 and overall power prices were exceptionally high for that reason as well. But the tendency of price destruction in relation to high levels of unregulated power vs demand is clear.

Germany 2022:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours. Sorted according to how hourly power prices were from lowest to highest.
Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

The unregulated power supply penetrating vs demand was even deeper in 2023. If we make the same graph for the year 2023 from 1 Jan to 20 Oct, we can see how the unregulated power is penetrating deeper and deeper into the power ”demand ceiling”. As a result the solar power discount vs. non-solar power hours from March to September in 2023 reached an even higher discount in 2023 than in 2022.

2023 year to 20 October:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,…) in orange dots. A total of 8760 hours. Sorted according to how hourly power prices were from lowest to highest. German power demand was down 8.3% YoY in H1-2023 due to the European energy crisis and still very high power prices
2023 year to 20 October:  Hourly German power demand (blue dots) and unregulated supply (solar, wind, run of river,...) in orange dots.
Source:  SEB graph, German 15 min power data collapsed into hourly data, Data extracted through Blbrg

Solar power hours and non-solar power hours is not given as a clear cut-off, but a gradual one. In the following graph given as average profiles of the year from hour 1 to hour 24. First calculated explicitly for solar power production and then the inverse is calculated from that one. These solar power profiles can then be calculated for each individual day in the year giving individual inverse-curves on a daily basis.

The daily ”solar power production profiles” and the ”non-solar power production profiles” typically looks like this graph but calculated individually per day as solar power production varies from day to day and through the seasons. The solar power production profile is explicitly given by the actual solar power production that day while the non-solar power profile is derived directly from this and the inverse of it on a daily basis.
The daily "solar power production profiles" and the "non-solar power production profiles
Source: SEB graph and calculations and graphs. German 15 min solar power prod. extracted from Blbrg

The exponential growth in solar and wind power is likely to slow down in the years to come as grid constraints and lack of power cables is holding up growth in renewable energy with waiting times for access of 5-10 years:

Offshore wind auction’s lack of bids must be ‘wake-up call’ for UK, says RWE chief”

FT: ”Gridlock: how a lack of power lines will delay the age of renewables”

FT: ”Will there be enough cables for the clean energy transition?” 

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