UPDATED: Heatwave pushes Poland a ‘whisker away from blackout’

Author: Sophie Udubasceanu

2015/08/10

Polish wholesale power prices for Tuesday delivery reached a record high as a heatwave forced several power plants into unplanned outages, with the country’s grid operator reporting over 4GW unavailable to the system on Monday.

At the end of last week, Polish grid operator PSE warned that the continuing heatwave was adversely affecting the operation of power plants and the grid. Problems arose at several power stations because of cooling issues.

Planned and unplanned outages meant the amount of capacity off line hit 7.1GW on Monday, according to transparency platform GPI Energia, pushing the within-day price on exchange POLPX up to Polish Zloty (Zl) 264.54/MWh (€63.06/MWh).

Average demand on Monday was a shade under 18GW, meaning the system was missing capacity equivalent to 22% of demand through unplanned outages alone, or 40% though a combination of planned and unplanned outages.

Record highs

But the biggest shock was Tuesday’s POLPX price which climbed to Zl 484.37/MWh for baseload and Zl 686.45/MWh for peaks. The peaks price was more than triple the outturn on the same day the previous week.

There were no confirmed day-ahead deals on the brokered over-the-counter market.

Both Monday’s and Tuesday’s outturns on POLPX stand as new record highs.

In fact, reflecting the extent of the critical situation, the Polish first fixing for Tuesday hit Zl 1,405.44/MWh for hour 12, the highest price of the day, almost hitting the exchange’s limit. The maximum price is Zl 1,500.00/MWh.

“It [the TSO] has had an amazing adventure trying to avoid a blackout today,” one trader said on Monday. “We are a whisker away from blackout,” the source added.

On Monday, PSE limited energy supplies to industrial customers. Restrictions were put in place at 10:00 Warsaw time and at the time of writing were due to remain until 22:00. This softened electricity demand by almost 2GW according to estimated figures. Actual consumption for Monday will be published on Tuesday.

Aftermath

The day-ahead spikes triggered strong gains on the front month contract. Trade data submitted to ICIS showed the product changed hands at Zl 175.50/MWh, well above Friday’s assessed close price of Zl 171.25/MWh. But because the day-ahead prices are the key driver behind the surge, some traders said its influence on the September product will be short-lived.

Some influence could also feed in from balancing market outturns for Monday and Tuesday. The results will be published later in the week.

On Monday, electricity flows from both the Czech Republic and Slovakia into Poland rose. In the afternoon hours the import need dropped slightly as consumption fell.

Poland will most likely continue to attract electricity imports from its neighbouring countries as the national grid shows the need for additional electricity. Temperatures are set to peak on Wednesday and continue high for the remainder of the week. sophie.udubasceanu@icis.com and ellie.chambers@icis.com