Följ oss

Analys

The self-destructive force of unregulated solar power

Publicerat

den

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?” 

Analys

OPEC+ won’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg

Publicerat

den

SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Lots of talk about an increasingly tight oil market. And yes, the oil price will move higher as a result of this and most likely move towards USD 100/b. Tensions and flareups in the Middle East is little threat to oil supply and will be more like catalysts driving the oil price higher on the back of a fundamentally bullish market. I.e. flareups will be more like releasing factors. But OPEC+ will for sure produce more if needed as it has no interest in killing the goose (global economy) that lays the golden egg (oil demand growth). We’ll probably get verbal intervention by OPEC+ with ”.. more supply in H2” quite quickly when oil price moves closer to USD 100/b and that will likely subdue the bullishness. OPEC+ in full control of the oil market probably means an oil price ranging from USD 70/b to USD 100/b with an average of around USD 85/b. Just like last year.

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

Brent crude continues to trade around USD 90/b awaiting catalysts like further inventory declines or Mid East flareups. Brent crude ydy traded in a range of USD 88.78 – 91.1/b before settling at USD 90.38/b. Trading activity ydy seems like it was much about getting comfortable with 90-level. Is it too high? Is there still more upside etc. But in the end it settled above the 90-line. This morning it has traded consistently above the line without making any kind of great leap higher.

Netanyahu made it clear that Rafah will be attacked. Israel ydy pulled some troops out of Khan Younis in Gaza and that calmed nerves in the region a tiny bit. But it seems to be all about tactical preparations rather than an indication of a defuse of the situation. Ydy evening Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel made it clear that a date for an assault on Rafah indeed has been set despite Biden’s efforts to prevent him doing so. Article in FT on this today. So tension in Israel/Gaza looks set to rise in not too long. The market is also still awaiting Iran’s response to the bombing of its consulate in Damascus one week ago. There is of course no oil production in Israel/Gaza and not much in Syria, Lebanon or Yemen either. The effects on the oil market from tensions and flareups in these countries are first and foremost that they work as catalysts for the oil price to move higher in an oil market which is fundamentally bullish. Deficit and falling oil inventories is the fundamental reason for why the oil price is moving higher and for why it is at USD 90/b today. There is also the long connecting string of:

[Iran-Iraq-Syria/Yemen/Lebanon/Gaza – Israel – US]

which creates a remote risk that oil supply in the Middle East potentially could be at risk in the end when turmoil is flaring in the middle of this connecting string. This always creates discomfort in the oil market. But we see little risk premium for a scenario where oil supply is really hurt in the end as neither Iran nor the US wants to end up in such a situation.

Tight market but OPEC+ will for sure produce more if needed to prevent global economy getting hurt. There  is increasing talk about the oil market getting very tight in H2-24 and that the oil price could shoot higher unless OPEC+ is producing more. But of course OPEC+ will indeed produce more. The health of the global economy is essential for OPEC+. Healthy oil demand growth is like the goose that lays the golden egg for them. In no way do they want to kill it with too high oil prices. Brent crude averaged USD 82.2/b last year with a high of USD 98/b. So far this year it has averaged USD 82.6/b. SEB’s forecast is USD 85/b for the average year with a high of USD 100/b. We think that a repetition of last year with respect to oil prices is great for OPEC+ and fully acceptable for the global economy and thus will not hinder a solid oil demand growth which OPEC+ needs. Nothing would make OPEC+ more happy than to produce at a normal level and still being able to get USD 85/b. Brent crude will head yet higher because OPEC+ continues to hold back supply Q2-24 resulting in declining inventories and thus higher prices. But when the oil price is nearing USD 100/b we expect verbal intervention from the group with statements like ”… more supply in H2-24” and that will probably dampen bullish prices.

Not only does OPEC+ want to produce at a normal level. It also needs to produce at a normal level. Because at some point in time in the future there will be a situation sooner or later where they will have to cut again. And unless they are back to normal production at that time they won’t be in a position to cut again.

So OPEC+ won’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. They won’t allow the oil price to stay too high for too long. I.e. USD 100/b or higher. They will produce more in H2-24 if needed to prevent too high oil prices and they have the reserve capacity to do it.

Data today: US monthly oil market report (STEO) with forecast for US crude and liquids production at 18:00 CET

Fortsätt läsa

Analys

Prepare for more turmoil, lower inventories and higher prices

Publicerat

den

SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Brent crude is pulling back below the 90-line this morning trading as low as USD 88.78/b following a 4.2% gain last week. The pullback is blamed on news that Israel is pulling some troops out of Gaza. But we think this is much more of a technical move below the 90-line with preparations for further price gains ahead. The Israeli troop movements are a preparation for a final push into Rafah in Gaza to take out the last stronghold of Hamas there (FT article today). Iranian retaliation following the attack in Damascus last week also looks set to unfold in some way. Possibly by Hezbollah in Lebanon though instigated by Iran. Prepare for more turmoil, lower oil inventories and higher prices as the market continues to run a deficit.

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

Brent gained 4.2% last week with a solid close above the 90-line. Brent crude had a stellar week last week gaining 4.2%. Even following such a strong performance it made a gain on Friday of 0.6% with a close at USD 91.17/b. Friday also saw the highest trade of the week at USD 91.91/b.

Brent was propelled by positive PMI gains, geopolitics and falling US inventories. Oil was supported by a rang of factors last week. Both the US and China saw their manufacturing PMIs rise above the 50-line (50.3 and 50.8 resp.). The Eurozone manufacturing PMI rose to 46.1 from 45.7 while the composite index rose above the 50-line to 50.3 from 49.9. These PMI gains supported both oil and metals through growth recovery optimism. US oil inventories last Wednesday created less waves with a net draw of 2.2 m b in total crude and product inventories. It was still a very bullish reading in our view as inventories normally this time of year should have risen 3.8 m b. Thus driving US commercial oil inventories further away and below the normal level of inventories. Geopolitical focus flared up following the attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria where Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general in Syria along with five other IRGC officers were killed. Israel is assumed to be behind the attack but has not taken responsibility yet.

Back below 90 this morning in what seems like a geopolitical breather. But is more of a technical move. This morning Brent crude has pulled back and traded as low as USD 88.78/b while trading at USD 89.76/b. We commented on Friday that it is quite normal for Brent crude to pull back below big numbers after having broken them. Just to test out the level properly before heading higher.

Israel is pulling some troops out of Gaza. Most likely it is preparing to attack Rafah (FT today)Price action to the downside this morning is blamed on some kind of reduced geopolitical premium as Israel is withdrawing some of its troops in Gaza. The reason why it is withdrawing some tropes however is to our understanding that Israel is preparing to attack Rafah, the southernmost part of Gaza bordering to Egypt where now close to one million Palestinians are living. It is the last strong-hold of Hamas and Israel looks bent on taking it out despite repeated warnings against it from the US. Human tragedy looks set to unfold in Rafah in not too long.

”Iran will respond to the Damascus strike”. The most likely flareup is Lebanon and Hezbollah. The geopolitical flare following the attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria last week has faded a little this morning. But this is in no way over. John Sawers, former chief of MI6, in an article in FT on Friday bluntly stated: ”Iran will respond to the Damascus strike”.  Iran still doesn’t want to be involved in direct military confrontation. The likely flareup will be Lebanon and Hezbollah which could force Israel into a two-front war. 

Rafah is located in the southernmost part of Gaza

Gaza map
Source: https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-200679/

Net long specs in Brent + WTI rose by 34 m b over the week to 2 April.

Net long specs in Brent + WTI rose by 34 m b over the week to 2 April.
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Data feed by Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia lifted its Official Selling Prices to Asia for most grades for May delivery

Saudi Arabia lifted its Official Selling Prices to Asia for most grades for May delivery
Source: SEB graph and calculations, Data feed by Bloomberg
Fortsätt läsa

Analys

Brent crude jumps above USD 91/b as market nervously brace for Iranian retaliation

Publicerat

den

SEB - analysbrev på råvaror

Brent crude jumps above USD 91/b but will likely see sub-90 again before charging yet higher. Brent crude reached USD 89.99/b on Wednesday before making the leap above the 90-line yesterday evening in a spiky fashion jumping almost directly to USD 91.3/b (ydy high) in less than three hours before closing at USD 90.65/b. This morning it is showing strength again with a gain of 0.6% to USD 91.2/b though it hasn’t yet broken above the high from ydy. It is very usual for the oil price to fool around big numbers as the 90-line before properly breaking through. We saw it on Wednesday when it almost got there but not really above anyhow. Also after breaking properly above as it did yesterday one often sees that the oil price then dips down to the ”big number” again, a little bit below, just to test it, before properly breaking higher. Thus we’ll likely see it break down below the 90-line again in the short-term before heading properly higher.

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

Iran promises retaliation while Israel makes it clear it will strike back if attacked. Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general in Syria along with five other IRGC officers were killed on Monday following an attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria. Iran has blamed Israel for the attack. Israel has so far not taken responsibility for the attack. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi directly blamed Israel and stated on Tuesday that Israel’s strike on its consulate in Syria ”won’t remain unanswered”. Yesterday we saw a hard-line stand from Israel where Netanyahu made it clear that if Iran strikes its territory then Israel will have no choice but to respond.

Market is preparing for Iranian retaliation, but most likely it will be through Iran’s proxies. The market is now bracing it self for a likely retaliatory action by Iran in response to the event in Syria on Monday. It seems very unlikely that Iran explicitly will attack targets on Israeli soil directly and thus risk getting dragged into a wider war with Israel and thus the US. If Israel and Iran gets into a direct conflict then the US will naturally be involved either directly or indirectly. No one wants that. Not Iran, not Biden and not Israel. A forthcoming retaliatory attack from Iran will thus likely be through some of its proxies in Yemen, Syria or Lebanon.

The market now know that some kind of retaliation from Iran will likely come but it doesn’t know when and where and what and that creates a great discomfort and nervousness.

Oil supply is unlikely to be affected. Still no one expects that oil supply is at risk in any way unless this situation blows out to an all-engulfing conflict between Israel and Iran where the US naturally would be dragged along into it all. It is too much at stake for all parties involved for this to happen.

Iran is producing 3.1 m b/d and rising and is unlikely to endanger that. Iran is probably extremely happy at the moment with respect to oil prices and oil exports. Iran used to produce around 3.8 m b/d of crude oil but due to US sanctions it only produced 2.0 m b/d in 2020 which is basically what it needs to cover its own demand with little left over for exports except for condensates which comes on top of crude oil production with about 0.8 m b/d. Since 2020 however its production has increased significantly and now stands at 3.1 m b/d and rising. Add in an oil price of USD 91/b and the situation for Iran is close to bliss economically. So Iran will likely retaliate following the attack on its consulate in Syria on Monday, but not in a fashion which will endanger its greatly improved situation with respect to oil export income.

Iran’s oil production is now back up to 3.1 m b/d and rising. Economically this is bliss for Iran when added together with an oil price of USD 91/b

Iran's oil production
Source: SEB graph, Blbrg data

The ongoing destruction of Gaza following the October 7 attack on Israel will feed red hot anger, pain and violence into the Middle East region for months and years to come.

Gaza
Source: Photo by: France24
Fortsätt läsa

Populära