Wholesale gas prices push energy index higher

Monday 08 April 2013 17.02
Bord Gáis Energy index rises by 11% in March
Bord Gáis Energy index rises by 11% in March

The Bord Gáis energy index - which measures energy costs - went up by 11% in March from the previous month. The index stood at 166 last month, up 6% on the same time last year.

Bord Gáis said that March was a turbulent month in the gas market as unusually cold weather, high demand, falling stocks and mechanical faults combined to push wholesale gas prices to record levels.

But Irish domestic customers are protected from short term price fluctuations as the gas used now has been bought over the last number of months. That limits the exposure to short term spikes in wholesale prices.

Irish buyers of UK gas have also benefited from a weakening sterling versus the euro. Since the start of the year, sterling has lost over 4% of its value against the euro.

The gas element of the index jumped by 26% last month due to those supply concerns and the unseasonably cold weather.

This in turn pushed the electricity element up by 28% as Irish wholesale electricity prices are dominated by the price of internationally traded commodities, and especially gas from the UK.

Bord Gáis noted that during March, about 75% of the Irish wholesale electricity demand was met by gas or coal powered plants, an increase on the previous month.

Meanwhile, the coal element of the index fell by 4% with European coal prices at October 2012 lows due to oversupply in the Atlantic basin and limited demand.

Bord Gáis noted that in February, European coal prices had risen as Colombian supplies fell by around 80% after several disruptions. But that situation was reversed in March as a deal was reached between the country's biggest thermal coal producer and its mine workers' union.

Bord Gáis said that in euro terms, the Brent crude price rose by 1% in March. But in dollar terms, the price fell moderately as events in Cyprus hit investor confidence.

An improving oil supply picture also affected prices, as OPEC boosted its crude production to the highest in three months in February.

John Heffernan, power trader at Bord Gáis, said that euro zone buyers of non-euro denominated commodities, such as oil and gas, will continue to see their buying power influenced by exchange rate movements.

''In March, this buying power was weakened as the market negatively assessed the consequences of Cyprus' bailout on bond and deposit holders in weak banks in at risk countries in the euro zone,'' he added.