Monthly wholesale electricity prices and demand in New England, March 2023

Wholesale power prices averaged $30.77 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the Real-Time Energy Market in March 2023, down 54% compared to the previous year1. Day-Ahead Energy Market averages fell to $35.02/MWh, down 47% from March 2022.  

By the numbers

March 2023 and Percent Change from March 2022 and February 2023March 2023March 2022February 2023
Average Real-Time Electricity Price ($/megawatt-hour)$30.77-53.6%-52.8%
Average Natural Gas Price ($/MMBtu)$2.94-55.9%-63.8%
Peak Demand16,199 MW-4.3%-17.5%
Total Electricity Use9,448 GWh-1.7%1.3%
Weather-Normalized Use29,573 GWh-2.1%-1.2%

Drivers of wholesale electricity prices

In general, the two main drivers of wholesale electricity prices in New England are the cost of fuel used to produce electricity and consumer demand.

Power plant fuel

Fuel is typically one of the major input costs in producing electricity. Natural gas is the predominant fuel in New England, used to generate 52% of the power produced in 2022 by New England’s power plants, and natural gas-fired power plants usually set the price of wholesale electricity in the region. As a result, average wholesale electricity prices are closely linked to natural gas prices.

The average natural gas price during March was $2.94 per million British thermal units (MMBtu)3. The price was down 56% from the March 2022 average Massachusetts natural gas index price of $6.67/MMBtu. The Mass. index price is a volume-weighted average of trades at four natural gas delivery points in Massachusetts, including two Algonquin points, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, and the Dracut Interconnect.

Wholesale electricity and natural gas prices, 2003-2023

Electricity demand

Demand is driven primarily by weather, as well as economic factors. Energy usage during March decreased 1.7% to 9,448 GWh from the 9,615 GWh used in March 2022.

The average temperature during March was 39˚ Fahrenheit (F) in New England, down 1˚ from the previous March. The average dewpoint, a measure of humidity, was 25˚F in March, down 1˚ from the previous March. There were 807 heating degree days (HDD) during March, while the normal number of HDD in March is 882 in New England4. In March 2022, there were 791 HDD. There were no cooling degree days (CDD) during March, which is typical for the region.

Consumer demand for electricity for the month peaked on March 7 during the hour from 6 to 7 p.m., when the temperature in New England was 32°F and the dewpoint was 17°. Demand reached 16,199 MW. The March 2023 peak was 4.3% lower than the March 2022 peak of 16,932 MW, set during the hour from 6 to 7 p.m. on March 1, when the temperature was 36°F and the dewpoint was 29°.

Peak demand is driven by weather, which drives the use of heating and air conditioning equipment. The all-time high winter peak was 22,818 MW, recorded during a cold snap in January 2004 when the temperature was -1°F and the dewpoint was -20°. The all-time peak demand in New England was 28,130 MW, recorded during an August 2006 heat wave, when the temperature was 94°F and the dewpoint was 74°. Air conditioning use is far more widespread than electric heating in New England, so weather tends to have a relatively greater impact on the summer peak than the winter peak.

Monthly peak demand and total and weather-normalized energy use

Resource mix and emissions

The mix of resources used in any given time period depends on price and availability, as well as supplemental resource commitments needed to ensure system stability.

Natural gas-fired and nuclear generation produced about 77% of the 8,579 GWh of electric energy generated within New England during March, at about 48% and 29%, respectively. Renewable resources generated about 13% of the energy produced within New England, including 5.1% from wood, refuse, and landfill gas; 4.5% from wind; and 3.8% from solar resources. Hydroelectric resources generated 9.5%. Coal resources generated 0.1%. Oil-fired resources did not generate a statistically significant amount of electricity.

The region also received net imports of about 1,041 GWh of electricity from neighboring regions.

March generation in New England, by fuel source

The mix of resources used to produce the region’s electricity is a key driver of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The ISO estimates these emissions through an analysis that blends data on electricity generation by fuel type with an emissions factor for each fuel that is based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency5.

March estimated CO2 emissions in New England, by fuel source (metric tons)

New England power plants produced an estimated 2.24 million metric tons of CO2 in March 2023, a drop of less than 1% from March 2022.

Estimated CO2 emissions from natural gas-fired plants—typically the largest source of emissions, due to the significant amount of power these resources produce—rose 4% year over year, from 1.56 million metric tons to 1.62 million metric tons. These resources accounted for 72% of the power system’s estimated emissions.

Coal-fired resources produced an estimated 5,519 metric tons of CO2, about 0.25% of the total and a year-over-year decrease of 48%. Oil-fired resources produced an estimated 586 metric tons of CO2, a year-over-year decrease of 98%.

CO2 emissions from other resources—mostly refuse and wood—were estimated at 614,895 metric tons, down 6% from last year. These resources accounted for 27% of the power system’s estimated CO2 emissions for the month.

1One megawatt (MW) of electricity can serve about 750 to 1,000 average homes in New England. A megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity can serve about 1,000 homes for one hour. One gigawatt-hour (GWh) can serve about 1 million homes for one hour.

2Weather-normalized demand indicates how much electricity would have been consumed if the weather had been the same as the average weather over the last 20 years.

3A British thermal unit (Btu) is used to describe the heat value of fuels, providing a uniform standard for comparing different fuels. One million British thermal units are shown as MMBtu.

4A degree day is a measure of heating or cooling. A zero degree day occurs when no heating or cooling is required; as temperatures drop, more heating days are recorded; when temperatures rise, more cooling days are recorded. The base point for measuring degree days is 65 degrees. Each degree of a day’s mean temperature that is above 65 degrees is counted as one cooling degree day, while each degree of a day’s mean temperature that is below 65 degrees is counted as one heating degree day. A day’s mean temperature of 90 degrees equals 25 cooling degree days, while a day’s mean temperature of 45 degrees equals 20 heating degree days.

5The factors used to calculate estimated CO2 emissions were updated in January 2023. ISO New England analysts regularly review and refine the methodology used to develop these emissions factors, in order to reflect the characteristics of New England’s generating fleet and improve the accuracy of the estimates.

Historical weather data provided by DTN, LLC.; Underlying natural gas data furnished by ICE.

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