Energy Markets in North America – Resources to Help Make Sense of them

Who would benefit?

Manufacturing is the largest single-use sector of energy, whether that is electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, or renewables. Producing goods requires vast quantities of energy in almost all major industrial sectors, such as mining, smelting or melting of plastic.

Where can I get data to help me?

Fluctuations in the energy markets on a daily, monthly or seasonal basis can have dramatic impacts upon your ability to effectively run a company. Here are three ways you can get information to help you make smart decisions about energy and energy purchasing.

1. U.S. Energy Information Agency is an independent statistical and analytical government agency under the U.S. Department of Energy. Some of their weekly and quarterly work includes:

  • Outlook reports for all major fossil fuel commodities: crude oil, natural gas, diesel and gasoline fuel, and coal.
  • Monthly and yearly energy forecasts.
  • Seasonal predictions on storage capacities (which help buffer prices for fuels).
  • Financial market analysis of energy markets and major energy companies.
  • Greenhouse gas and pollution emissions from major power plants.

This data can help your purchasing and accounting departments develop product prices and budgetary forecasts for coming years. The EIA also has a wide range of reports on international energy use / outlooks as well, which could help shape decisions on off-shoring / reshoring.

2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration located under the US Department of Commerce, is most famous as the “go to” source for daily weather and warnings on severe weather conditions. They also track weather statistics and make long-range forecasts extending as far as 12 months in advance. There are specialty pages for hurricane and tornado data, drought outlooks and temperature extremes. As energy use in other segments (i.e. residential and transportation) is highly affected by weather extremes, knowing what to expect for seasonal heat or cold can help you predict your company’s exposure to electricity and natural gas price spikes. Remember the price wallop of the Polar Vortex in early 2014? Since most of the peak-demand power plants run on natural gas, when there’s a cold snap, electricity rates climb just as fast as natural gas prices.

US & International Economic Outlooks

3. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy was founded in 1980 and is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that believes “the U. S. can harness the full potential of energy efficiency to achieve greater economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection for all its people.” While they cover all aspects of energy efficiency (policy, advocacy, education, technology), they have a specific group that focuses on “industrial energy use”. Here you can find reports, analyses, and announcements of conferences and webinars specific to reducing energy use in industry sectors.

I encourage you to use these resources to develop your own forecasts and submit them to our Forum areas for discussion. “Knowledge is Power” as the old saying goes, and being prepared for a cold winter, or a turbulent energy market, can help you keep the “Power” on!

Do you have any other useful sources that you would like to share?

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