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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
January 4, 2008
Prices Keep Cool Even as Intense Storms Torment West Coast

Electricity prices had a rollercoaster ride this week, rising and falling in concert with natural gas prices and temperatures. A Tuesday trading holiday for the New Year added to the erratic behavior.

On Wednesday, electricity values climbed with stiffer natural gas prices and the advent of another round of Pacific storms. On Thursday, prices collapsed on plunging gas prices and lower demand. Then Friday, with intense rainstorms slamming Northern California, prices edged back up, with forecasts of colder temperatures this weekend.

At the California-Oregon border, peak power values kicked off the week at $65.44/MWh, added $5 on Wednesday and closed out the week at an average of $66.16/MWh. Off-peak prices, however, dropped from $57.49/MWh on Monday to $55.39 on Friday.

Daytime power prices for the Mid-Columbia hub gained about $4 to hit an average of $65.15/MWh on Wednesday, but finished the week at $62.02. Nighttime power fell $2 to settle at an average of $53.68/MWh.

North of Path 15, peak values added $5 to reach $73.90/MWh on Wednesday, only to slide to $68.68 by Friday. Night power lost about $1 over the week to end at $56.69/MWh.

South of Path 15 was the same story, with prime power prices charging ahead by $5 to $73.56/MWh on Wednesday only to give up the gain Thursday. Friday's prices were trending up, but still ended down at $69.20. Off-peak values were clipped by around 50 cents to $56.56/MWh.

At Arizona's Palo Verde trading center, day prices were whipsawed, skyrocketing from $60/MWh to $64.97 on Wednesday, then falling to $60.22 on Friday. Night prices slipped as low as $47.25, a drop of $5, but managed to claw back to $51.29/MWh by Friday.

What's ahead: The West Coast is getting pounded by another round of Pacific storms, with the brunt of the heavy snow and rain falling in California. Downpours will inundate California along the coast while the Sierra Nevada will see rare blizzard conditions, according to AccuWeather. Thousands of people were without power in the Bay Area and Northern California, with some roads and bridges closed and many flights delayed.

High winds, gusting to 70 mph, will blow through lower elevations, while the mountains will see speeds over 100 mph. California should get a reprieve by Tuesday, but not before 10 feet of snow falls in the Sierras.

San Francisco will see rain and temperatures in the mid-50s throughout the weekend. Palm Springs and Los Angeles will also get plenty of rain, but the sun should peek through on Monday. Temperatures will be in the high to low 60s, respectively. Even Phoenix will be under threat of rain until Tuesday, though temperatures will be in the upper 60s.

In Seattle and Portland, rain will fall through the weekend, with temperatures falling from the high to low 40s by Sunday. Portland will also have a chance of snow later this week.

Units at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California remain off line this week, but are expected to return to operation this month after routine maintenance is completed. Palo Verde's 1,311 MW Unit No. 3 is closed, while SONGS Unit No. 2, which has a capacity of 1,070 MW, is shuttered. Spent fuel is also being replaced at the San Onofre unit [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Prices Slip on Warmer Temperatures, Healthy Storage

Natural gas prices slumped this week thanks to less extreme winter weather than expected and robust supplies. At the major Western hubs, prices fell from 20 to 45 cents/MMBtu by Friday. Prices ranged from an average low of $6.85/MMBtu at the Permian and San Juan trading hubs to a high of $7.57/MMBtu at PG&E's CityGate.

National stockpiles of natural gas in storage dipped by 87 Bcf to 2.921 Tcf last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. There is now 5 percent less natural gas in storage than this time last year, but storage is still 8 percent above the five-year average.

In the West, declines were more modest, with supplies inching down by 18 Bcf to 395 Bcf [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: Dec. 31, 2007 - Jan. 4, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 15.48-327.06 15.74-68.18
Mid-Columbia 54.25-66.50 48-59
COB 61-71 49.25-61
NP 15 65.75-74.50 50.75-58.50
SP 15 63-75 50.25-58.25
Palo Verde 58.50-66 46.50-54

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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Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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