Cinergy Cries Force Majeure on Power Deliveries
Slightly more than one year after Midwest power prices spiked to
$7,500/MWh from $25/MWh, causing suppliers to default on contracts,
companies to go out of business and federal regulators to conclude
it was a one-time anomaly, the power market did it again.
Record power demand, tight supplies and transmission constraints
on July 30 sent prices to as high as $9,000/MWh at the Cinergy hub,
and hub operator Cinergy Corp. conceded last week that it defaulted
on several hourly off-system sales contracts with power marketers.
The Ohio-based utility and power marketer sent out "force majeure"
letters Friday, claiming there was not enough power supply
available on the market to make deliveries, and even if supply had
been available it would not have been able to deliver it because of
transmission constraints during peak afternoon hours. The company
neither named the marketers involved nor said how much power wasn't
Some power traders questioned whether it was a case force
majeure, an act of God, or of "price majeure," in which Cinergy was
just unwilling to pay exorbitant prices to fulfill its obligations.
Cinergy spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said, however, "There was
simply a lack of available power to us either because of just
limited supplies out there because of the record heat and record
loads that the region was experiencing or [because of] transmission
constraints that we were experiencing." She added that there was
"at least one other company that failed to deliver," but she could
not name the party. She also noted that the hourly load was
Temperatures reached the high-90s that day, pushing electric
demand to near record levels throughout Cinergy's Ohio, Indiana and
Kentucky service areas. Power demand on its system reached 10,811
MW, or about 47 MW shy of the record, and would have broken the
record had it not been for the company's aggressive requests for
voluntary power reductions, said Protogere. Voluntary reductions
shaved about 500 MW from Cinergy's power needs that day, she said.
The record was set July 22 at 10,858 MW.
"We called more than 2,000 large-volume customers and asked them
to reduce their load. If we had not gone out and called for
voluntary conservation we would have blown past that peak by
hundreds of megawatts." Cinergy had warned customers that blackouts
might occur if voluntary reductions were not made. The company was
able to maintain its on-system deliveries.
Protogere said the company currently is negotiating with power
marketers over the force majeure provisions in their power
agreements and hopes to settle the matter outside of court.
Last summer, multiple power marketers went to court against
Federal Energy Sales when the Rocky River, OH-based marketer
defaulted on power delivery contracts. Many marketers suffered
financial losses and some went out of business. The power price
spikes that occurred during the week of June 22 and resulting
market shake-up triggered investigations by state and federal
regulators and hearings on Capitol Hill. Regulators recommended
some market changes, such as more independent system operators, but
generally concluded the event was the result of an immature
marketplace and was not likely to recur.
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