Contango in the Electric Markets: What It Means for Consumers
Jun 6, 2023

Electricity is one of the most important commodities in the world today. It powers homes, offices, and factories, and is an essential component of our daily lives. But electricity pricing can be unpredictable, and it is not always easy to understand why prices are changing. In recent times, the electric markets have been exhibiting a phenomenon called “contango”.

Contango is a term used in commodity trading to describe a situation where the futures price of a commodity is higher than the spot price. In the electric markets, the term refers to the situation where short-term electricity prices are lower than long-term prices. This is a bit unusual since in a normal market demand dictates that short-term prices will typically be higher than long-term prices. But when short-term prices remain below long-term prices for an extended period, it’s called contango.

There are a few reasons why contango is happening in the electric markets right now. One significant factor is the increased use of renewable energy. Solar and wind power, in particular, have become cheaper and more widely used, and they can produce electricity at a lower cost than traditional fossil fuels. This has led to an oversupply of electricity, especially during periods of high renewable output. This surplus has put downward pressure on short-term prices. Other factors contributing to contango are changes in energy regulations, industry consolidation, and competition from independent power producers.

Contango in the electric markets means that long-term electricity prices are relatively high, while short-term prices are lower. This can be good news for consumers who are looking for short-term price stability. Short-term contracts can provide budget certainty, enabling consumers to plan their finances with more confidence. On the other hand, contango may not be so great for customers who prefer long-term contracts. Long-term contracts signed in a contango market will end up being more expensive than short-term contracts since the long-term prices are higher.

Contango in the electric markets can also indicate that energy demand is likely to remain stable, or even decline, in the short-term. However, if a sudden demand spike occurs, it could result in a dramatic increase in short-term prices. Therefore, it is always essential to keep track of the market trends and avail of a contract that provides flexible terms.

Contango in happening due to an oversupply of electricity, regulatory changes, and consolidation in the industry. It is always essential to keep track of electric markets and choose a contract that best fits your needs. An experienced broker can help advise on advantageous terms and even recommend a blend extend if the market reverses into ‘backwardation”.

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