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Already on the rise, Henry Hub natural gas spot prices will trend even higher during the final months of this year due to disruptions from Hurricane Ida and hotter temperatures.
In its September Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration is predicting fourth-quarter Henry Hub spot prices to average $4.00 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), an increase of 41 cents, or 16%, from last month’s report. Forecast prices for 2022 average $3.47/MMBtu, an increase of 39 cents compared with the August outlook.
“Hurricane Ida affected natural gas production at a time that the United States was already experiencing higher natural gas prices due to growth in exports, strong domestic natural gas consumption and relatively flat natural gas production,” said acting EIA Administrator Steve Nalley.
“Lost production from the storm combined with these current market conditions has limited our ability to build up natural gas inventories, and we expect that will keep prices higher in the short term than we had previously thought.”
As a result of higher natural gas prices—and expected increases in generation from renewable sources of energy—the EIA expects natural gas to make up a smaller share of the electricity fuel mix. It’s expected to average 35% in 2021 and 34% in 2022, down from 39% in 2020.
The share of electricity generated from coal is expected to rise from 20% in 2020 to about 24% in both 2021 and 2022, another result of higher natural gas prices.
Additions to wind and solar capacity in 2021 and 2022 will raise the share of electricity generation from renewables. This month’s outlook estimates that the U.S. power sector added 14.7 gigawatts of wind capacity in 2020 and will add another 17.6 GW in 2021 and 6.3 GW in 2022.
Utility-scale solar capacity rose an estimated 10.5 GW in 2020, with an additional 15.9 GW expected to come online in 2021 and 16.3 GW in 2022.
This month’s outlook predicts large growth in residential rooftop solar—more than 11.5 GW combined in 2021 and 2022. Last year, small-scale solar grew by 4.5 GW.
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.