Editorial

How coronavirus is affecting power demand in the Midwest

The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed power demand patterns and expectations in the Midcontinent ISO

McGara DeWan

Associate, Short-Term Analytics

McGara specialises in creating customised price forecasts and monitoring emerging market trends in the US Midwest

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The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed power demand patterns and expectations in the Midcontinent ISO (MISO). 

Some recent analysis of MISO from Genscape (part of Wood Mackenzie) reveals notable changes in demand patterns since the start of the pandemic. 

Notably, it’s already evident that the response procedures put in place by Midwestern states have driven a shift in the region’s demand profile. 

At this point, there are still numerous possibilities for how the pandemic will impact MISO and other part of North America. It’s likely that demand will continue to rapidly shift and evolve as human behavior changes at an unprecedented rate. 

Initial effects of Covid-19 on power demand  

The first noticeable impact of COVID-19 in MISO was a decrease in the velocity of the morning demand ramp. 

School and office closures have led most of the workforce to work from home and contributed to a steady decline in morning load levels.  

Since the start of the widespread social-distancing and work-from-home mandates on March 9, the rate of increase in load from 5am to 9am has declined.

The first noticeable impact of COVID-19 in MISO was a decrease in the velocity of the morning demand ramp.

This flattened demand curve has shifted the peak demand hour into the early afternoon. Historically, the normal MISO shoulder season" (i.e., spring or fall) load curve has distinct morning and evening peaks that occur as most Midwesterners leave the house in the morning and return home at night. 

With most people now home throughout the day, the load profile has shifted due to a combination of later wake-up times and increased daytime lighting load. 

The slowed morning demand ramp and the absence of an evening ramp have driven the two peaks to converge in the early afternoon.

Other market effects 

Each state is in a different stage of COVID-19 procedures and regulations, making demand analysis extremely complex. 

It’s possible that generation maintenance and transmission outages may be postponed to limit people working in close proximity, which would ultimately lower congestion risks.  

This also connects to concerns around staffing, as widespread infection among plant operators could prevent plants from operating. 

Prior to the spread of the virus, MISO saw uncharacteristically cheap pricing from mild demand and extremely low gas prices. 

With COVID-19, many are worried that MISO prices will remain cheap, as gas prices and the capacity of generation on outage appear unlikely to rise. However, the evidence is not yet substantial at this early point in time. 

Further demand destruction is likely yet to come as COVID-19 spreads deeper into MISO territory.  

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