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Buying EUAs on the cheap will likely be one of the great opportunities of 2024

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There are certainly bearish forces at work in the EUA market currently. Spot-wise, yes, but current forward price curve dynamics also creates a bearish pressure. Not the least from the utility side which normally is the big forward buyer of EUAs. They can now buy back previous forward hedges which where they locked in positive forward power margins. The can now instead reverse these which means that they instead of buying EUAs forward will sell EUAs forward.

Ole R. Hvalbye, Analyst Commodities, SEB

Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst commodities, SEB

That said, the MSR mechanism in the EUA market basically ensures that any surplus EUA above 833 million ton in the TNAC (Total Number of Allowances in Circulation) is wiped out within 2-3 years. The medium term EUA market fundamentals in 2026/27 and beyond is thus mostly untouched of what is going on right now. Forward 2026/27 and onward fundamentals are thus still as strong as they were previously which calls for a minimum price of EUR 100/ton or more by that time-horizon.

The question is what will be the catalyst which will turn this around to bullish price action instead of current bearish price action. A return to positive, forward clean dark and clean spark spreads is one. Economic revival in Europe as nat gas prices now have come down almost to the real average gas price level from 2010 to 2019 is another. Strong buying from shipping as they have no free allocations on their hands and will need every single EUA they buy in the years to come. But also industry will need increasingly more EUAs in the years to come and could utilize the current slump in EUA prices. Investors could also dive in at price levels seen ”too low” versus medium-term fundamental prices. Though hedge funds rarely have time to wait 2-3 years for a revival. But at some point the difference between the EUA spot price and what is considered a fair EUA price level (given politics and forward EUA fundamentals) become too big and too tempting to resist for both speculators and users of EUAs 

Every year has unique opportunities in different types of assets, equities, currencies etc. We think that one of the great opportunities in 2024 when looked upon in hindsight, will be cheap EUAs. Thus those in need for EUAs in the years ahead should bid their time and pay attention to the opportunity currently playing out in the EU carbon market.

Since 17 January the front-month EUA price has ranged between an intraday low of EUR 59.12/ton and an intraday high of EUR 64.05/ton and with an average of closes of EUR 61.4/ton. The stabilization in the EUA price seems strongly related to the price development in the front-year TTF nat gas price which has stabilized at around EUR 32/MWh during the exact same period following a sharp price decline since early October last year.

The front-year TTF nat gas contract has stabilized at around EUR 32/MWh and the average year 2025 EUA price has stabilized for now around EUR 61/ton.

Source: SEB graph, blbrg data

But the EUA price may have halted around the EUR 60/ton mark for other reasons as well. One is that when politicians tightened up the EUA market with backloading (2014) and MSR (2019) the EUA price rallied on its own merits and ahead of the Coal-to-Gas differentials all the way up to EUR 60/ton in 2021. In September 2021 however the C-t-G differentials (implied price of EUAs by marginal power market dynamics in an EUA market which is not too tight and not too loose) rallied ahead and above the EUA price  due to the rally in nat gas prices. This then helped to drive the EUA price yet higher. The EUA price is now however back down at the crossover price of EUR 60/ton from September 2021 at which the EUA price previously was able to reach on its own merits (political tightening).

The average EUA front-year price in EUR/ton vs. the implied front-year C-t-G differential with 41% efficient coal and 54% efficient nat gas. The difference between the efficiency of 41% to 54% is not much different than the often used 36% vs 49%.

Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blrg data

The EUA price also seems to follow the front-year C-t-G differentials quite closely while the discrepancies widen out further out on the curve. Thus a further sharp decline in the front-year TTF nat gas price is probably needed dynamically to drive the EUA price yet lower.

The EUA price seems to be anchored to the front-year TTF nat gas price as well as the front-year Coal-to-Gas differentials. But further out on the curve the latter widens out. Either because of increasing market tightness or simply due to curve structures. There are no support from C-t-G differentials in the current forward curves for 2026 and 2027.

Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

A serious element of weakness in the EUA market currently is that current forward clean power margins are negative. I.e. there is likely very limited amount of forward hedging by utilities as it doesn’t make sense for utilities to lock-in negative forward margins. Utilities are normally a large source of forward buying of EUAs and now there is probably close to nothing. And maybe even the opposite: Utilities may reverse previously entered hedges where they locked in forward positive margins and now instead can buy them back at favorable negative levels.

On a forward basis it costs more to produce power with Coal+CO2 or Gas+CO2 than it is possible to sell the power at on a forward basis.

Source: SEB graph and calculations, Blbrg data

The following graph shows a ”utility hedging incentive index” which when positive indicates positive, clean forward coal and gas power margins with a weighting of 75%, 50% and 25% on the nearest Yr1, Yr2 and Yr3. Very strong and positive forward power margins since Jan 2019. The index crossed below the EUR 5/MWh margin October last year and now sits at a massive negative EUR 7.8/MWh at which Utilities are incentivised to revers their previous hedges and buy back previously sold power and then sell coal, gas and EUAs.

The EUA price vs. SEB’s Utility forward hedging incentive index. Now very negative. Potentially feeds EUA sales into the market from the Utility side.

Source: SEB calculations and graph, Blbrg data

There are thus certainly bearish forces at work in the EUA market currently. Both spot-wise but also current forward price curve dynamics creates a bearish pressure. Not the least from the utility side which normally is the big forward buyer of EUAs.

That said, the MSR mechanism in the EUA market basically ensures that any surplus EUA above 833 million ton in the TNAC (Total Number of Allowances in Circulation) is wiped out within 2-3 years. The medium term EUA market fundamentals in 2026/27 are thus mostly untouched of what is going on right now. Forward 2026/27 and onward fundamentals are thus still as strong as they were previously which calls for a minimum price of EUR 100/ton or more by that time-horizon.

The question is what will be the catalyst which will turn this around to bullish price action. Positive, forward clean dark and clean spark spreads is one. Economic revival in Europe as nat gas prices now have come down almost to the real average gas price level from 2010 to 2019. Strong buying from shipping as they have no free allocations on their hands and will need every single EUA the buy in the years to come. But also industry will need increasingly more EUAs in the years to come. Investors could also dive in at price levels seen ”too low” versus medium-term fundamental prices. Though hedge funds rarely have time to wait 2-3 years for a revival. But at some point the difference between the EUA spot price and what is considered a fair EUA price level (given politics and forward EUA fundamentals) become too big and too tempting to resist for both speculators and users of EUAs

Inlägget Buying EUAs on the cheap will likely be one of the great opportunities of 2024 dök först upp på Råvarumarknaden.se.

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