Journal of Energy Markets

Energy trading efficiency in ERCOT’s day-ahead and real-time electricity markets

Kang Hua Cao, Han Qi, Chen-Hao Tsai, Chi Keung Woo and Jay Zarnikau

  • Hourly prices are used to study energy trading efficiency in ERCOT’s electricity markets.
  • Mild inefficiency in ERCOT’s inter-day and inter-regional energy trading is documented.
  • Regional forward premia in ERCOT’s day-ahead energy prices and regional differences in ERCOT’s day-ahead and real-time energy prices are explained.
  • Means to improve ERCOT’s trading efficiency and investment incentive are discussed.

The efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is a fundamental tenet of active and unfettered market trading. The EMH for intertemporal trading of a commodity such as natural gas implies that today’s futures price is an unbiased predictor of a future delivery period’s spot price and that the difference between today’s futures and spot prices reflects the commodity’s cost of carrying. The EMH for inter-regional trading requires the commodity’s regional price difference to equal the inter-regional transportation cost. Using regional hourly data for January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2020 from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), we investigate whether the EMH is empirically valid in all ERCOT’s wholesale electricity markets and, if not, the extent of ERCOT’s energy trading inefficiency and what can be done to reduce it. By estimating a parsimonious system of eight price-level regressions and four price-difference regressions, we reject the interday EMH for all regions and the inter-regional EMH for all regional market pairs. However, ERCOT’s extent of trading inefficiency is mild when compared to the wholesale energy prices. Our empirical examples have two policy implications: enhancing ERCOT’s interday trading efficiency entails improving the day-ahead forecasts for solar and wind generation and refining ERCOT’s indicative real-time market prices, while enhancing ERCOT’s inter-regional trading efficiency requires transmission capacity expansion to reduce transmission congestion and line losses.

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