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Western Price Survey / Archives

January 3, 2003
Holiday Markets Ho-Ho-Hum

Rather than riding higher as tension increased over utilities' ability to buy and sell power beginning January 1, spot electric prices made merry in modest fashion this week. Demand remained relatively low in spite of millions of brightly burning holiday lights around the West, and moderate temperatures throughout California kept heating loads at bay for yet another week.

The California Independent System Operator system reported electric demand at about 29,000 MW to 30,000 MW, and the amount of capacity lost to unplanned generation curtailments ranged from about 2,108 MW to 2,685 MW. Mirant Corp.'s Pittsburg No. 7 unit fell off line early in the week, taking 682 MW off the grid. Duke Energy cut back all power output at its 337 MW Morro Bay 3 plant and at its 175 MW South Bay 3 plant.

According to Cal-ISO, outages this week at the 325 MW Sunrise power plant wobbled between scheduled and unscheduled. All power from the unit was curtailed early in the week before increasing to 50 percent capacity on Wednesday, after which the plant again fell off line the next day.

Nuclear power plants in the area continued to run at full power, with Diablo Canyon and San Onofre units at 100 percent capacity. Palo Verde's three turbines (Nos. 1, 2 and 3) remained at 97 percent, 98 percent, and 99 percent of full output, respectively.

Transmission facilities in Southern California have been restored after raging mid-December storms bowled over power towers and lines. Path 26 and the Lugo- Vincent line came back into service this week, according to Cal-ISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman.

In the Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration offered 50 MW of off-peak power and 100 MW of peak power for midweek deliveries. BPA then bumped its heavy-load offering to 200 MW for Friday-Tuesday supplies.

Off-peak prices at most hubs wandered higher this week, especially at Palo Verde and the California- Oregon border. Trades for light-load power in the Southwest yielded prices as high as 40 mills, and off- peak prices at COB rose to 43.75 mills/KWh-nearly matching the hub's peak-price levels.

Prices for peak hours traveled familiar ground, with premiums at SP15 reported as high as 50 mills and prices at NP15 rising to 48.25 mills/KWh. Palo Verde drew as much as 46 mills for some heavy-load hours, and COB and Mid-Columbia netted prices of 44.75 mills and 43 mills/KWh, respectively.

Real-time prices at the AECO hub in Canada also tread lightly this week, with peak power trading for as little as 8 mills/KWh for some hours. Peak loads were also lower, sinking to about 7,700 MW on New Year's Day after starting the week at 8,420 MW [Jason Mihos].

Gas Prices Give Way

In apparent observance of this week's holiday, Western gas prices took a break from their recent climbing expeditions. The season's monotonous cry of "low heating load" echoed through this week's trades, and gas prices on the NYMEX futures exchange notched down later in the week.

On Friday, prices began to perk up on news of lower levels of stored gas. On January 3, the federal government's Energy Information Administration announced that the amount of gas in storage is 2,417 Bcf, which is 123 Bcf less than the amount reported for the previous week.

According to the EIA report, gas stocks in the West are 26 Bcf lower than they were the week before. Nationwide, the amount of stored gas is 572 Bcf less than what was in supply during the same period (week ending December 27) in 2001.

This week's market left some traders wondering when colder temperatures and higher heating demand will arrive. "It's a slow week anyway with the holiday, but we're still waiting on the weather," said one trader. "It's January and it still looks like nothing's coming in."

Trades at the Permian Basin garnered prices between $4.15 and $4.63/MMBtu, with San Juan Basin gas a step behind in the $4.10 to $4.35/MMBtu range. At the Southern California border, gas traded for as much as $4.78/MMBtu after starting off the week between $4.45 and $4.50/MMBtu.

Gas at Pacific Gas & Electric's CityGate hub pushed up to $4.75 for some trades this week and sold for as low as $4.38/MMBtu. At Malin, prices hit a high of $4.35 and dipped to an even $4/MMBtu.

At Canada's AECO hub, prices straddled the $3-$4/MMBtu divide, ranging from $3.96 to $4.08/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of December 30, 2002-January 3, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.19-69.84 10.19-38.28
Mid-Columbia 32-43 24-34.75
COB 35-44.75 25-43.75
NP 15 37.75-48.25 26-39
SP 15 38-50 24-40.75
Palo Verde 37.25-46 21.25-40

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.

The Western Price Survey is excerpted from Energy NewsData's comprehensive regional news services. See for yourself how NewsData reporters put events in an accurate and meaningful context -- request a sample of either or both California Energy Markets and Clearing Up.

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