Energy Crisis May Trigger Winter Blackouts Across US: Coal Firm CEO
The energy crisis that has led to shortages and blackouts in Europe and Asia could hit the United States this winter, the chief executive of an energy firm says.
“We’ve actually had discussions with power utilities who are concerned that they simply will have to implement blackouts this winter,” said Ernie Thrasher, the head of Xcoal Energy & Resources, according to Bloomberg News. “They don’t see where the fuel is coming from to meet demand.”
He also stated that utilities are switching to coal from natural gas during the fall and winter months to keep up with the demand.
The global demand for power has increased as economies attempt to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, triggering natural gas shortages primarily in Europe and Asia.
Power producers, including Duke Energy, have warned customers that bills may spike this winter. Duke’s Piedmont Natural Gas unit stated on Oct. 5 that higher gas prices and low production will raise customer bills by approximately $11 per month in North and South Carolina.
“That whole supply chain is stretched beyond its limits,” said Thrasher, whose Pennsylvania-based company works in coal logistics. “It’s going to be a challenging winter for us here in the United States.”
The New York State Public Service Commission told Bloomberg that it’s monitoring utilities in New York to determine whether there’s enough fuel for the winter.
“The utilities have hedged approximately 70 percent” of their residential electricity needs, the agency said, stating that it expects to meet demand this season.
The benchmark U.S. natural gas contract has been rallying, lately hitting seven-year highs, but its $5.62 per million British thermal units price is a far cry from the $30-plus being paid in Europe and Asia, Reuters noted.
However, the U.S. market is worried about the coming cold, particularly in New England and California—where prices for gas to be delivered this winter are far above the nationwide benchmark. In New England, buyers are expecting gas to cost more than $20 per million British thermal units.
In New England, gas for January delivery is soaring, trading last week at more than $22 at the region’s Algonquin hub, which would be the highest price paid in a month since January and February of 2014.
“Henry Hub prices continue to climb for the winter months, but we should see even bigger increases on the East and West Coasts for New England and California,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst for the Americas at commodity analytics firm Kpler.
Reuters contributed to this report.