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Western Price Survey / Archives

January 9, 2004
Northwest Cold Snap Snaps

With a warming trend moving into the Northwest during the tail end of the week, temperatures rose and power prices slipped. After beginning the week with the mercury significantly lower than normal--with much snow falling in a region more familiar with rain-- Oregon and Washington began to thaw out and the pressure on electricity prices eased.

Prices for electricity surged with higher demand on Monday. Mid-Columbia peak power was trading for as much as 63 mills/KWh on that day, while off-peak supplies traded for between 51 mills and 53.50 mills/KWh. Power was in high demand, with instantaneous coincidental peak reported by the Northwest Power Pool as exceeding 58,700 MW on Monday. Still, there was no reported difficulty in meeting the demand.

California-Oregon Border prices also peaked on Monday for the week. Peak-demand power traded within a range of 58 mills and 64 mills/KWh, while off-peak power at the hub moved for between 51 mills and 54 mills/KWh. By Thursday, trading at both Northwest hubs had dropped by at least 10 mills, with peak-power deals at COB topping out at 48 mills/KWh. Off-peak power soften to as low as 34.25 mills/KWh.

Most Northwest utilities battled outages during the week because of the storms. Reports placed total outages at 260,000 customers the their peak. Seattle City Light had managed to restore power to nearly all customers by Thursday after having about 45,000 without power the day before. In Portland, about 58,000 customers of Portland General Electric were without service on Wednesday. Thousands in the area continued to be without power Thursday.

In California, power prices also increased during the first half of the week--in response to both the Northwest demand and surging natural gas prices. At NP15, the price for peak-time deliveries hit 64 mills/KWh Monday before tapering to 52.75 mills and 55 mills/KWh on Wednesday. By Thursday the price had ratcheted down to between 47.50 mills and 50 mills/KWh. Off-peak power that day changed hands for between 32.50 mills and 35 mills/KWh.

Peak loads in the California Independent System Operator territory remained well within reach of available capacity. The Tuesday peak hit 31,323 MW before tapering down to 28,705 MW on Wednesday.

The tally of power plant outages in the Cal-ISO control area hovered at the 8,000 MW mark much of the wee. Many units at AES' Alamitos facility were off line this week. Unit Nos. 2 and 7 were unavailable on Tuesday and Wednesday because of unplanned outages while Unit. Nos. 3 and 5 were on scheduled outages. La Paloma's 234 MW No. 2 and 231 MW No. 3 units were on unplanned outage on Tuesday though both were healthy on Wednesday.By the end of the week, no La Paloma units were listed on the Cal-ISO status chart.

On Thursday, Calpine's 861 MW Delta Energy Center in Pittsburg, California was reported off line on an unscheduled outage. Earlier in the week the unit had been curtailed by about 300 MW for scheduled reasons. By Friday the unit was listed as curtailed by 581 MW. South of the border, the 600 MW Termoelectrica de Mexicali No. 1 also went off line that day. By Friday it was curtailed by just 110 MW. Continuing on unplanned outage status this week were two Morro Bay units--the 337 NW No. 3 unit and the 336 MW No. 4 unit.

The Western nuclear power plants were in fine fettle this week, as all four California units, the three Palo Verde units and Washington's Columbia facility were operating at full power [Shauna O'Donnell].

Spot Prices Ride on Weather

Weather drove up the price of natural gas significantly during the week, also adding to the strength of electricity trading. For example, Malin deliveries were moving for between $5.36 and $6.10/MMBtu on Monday and swelled to a high of $6.80/MMBtu in Tuesday trading. As a warming trend moved into the region so did slippage in the price of natural gas. By Wednesday, Topock fuel was changing hands for between $5.80 and $5.99/MMBtu, after hitting a high of $6.80/MMBtu on Tuesday.

At the end of the week the cost for the fuel had dropped another nickel or so, but still prices still exceeded those seen on Monday. San Juan gas, which opened the week in the range of $5.75 to $5.87/MMBtu, dipped to a high of $5.82/MMBtu in mid-week trading before closing the week at $5.54/MMBtu [S O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of January 5-9, 2004
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.60-228.42 10.60-38.96
Mid-Columbia 43-63 33.75-53.50
COB 45.75-64 34.25-54
NP 15 47.50-64 32.50-48
SP 15 47-63.50 31-47.25
Palo Verde 43.50-58.25 28-43.25

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


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Contact Shauna O'Donnell, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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