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Western Price Survey / Archives

January 18, 2002
Hydro Moves to the Fore(bay)

With colder weather sitting over the West, power prices rose to the 30 mills/KWh mark at several California and Southwestern points. Pacific Northwest prices followed the upward trend, but from a distance, remaining below 25 mills even at the high point of the week.

With cloud cover rolling over the Northwest, things did not get as cold as expected, helping to moderate the upward swing. Another factor appeared to be a ratcheting up of output at federal dams, with the Bonneville Power Administration returning to an all- day and all-night sales offer this week. There might be even looser taps in store, as BPA increased its daily offer to 200 MW each hour beginning Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Some traders were noting a softening of prices heading into the weekend, with prices at the California/Oregon Border and Palo Verde seeming to erode by a few points. Monday is a semi-holiday for the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday in some but not all jurisdictions.

The California Independent System Operator's daily unit outage list swelled to more than 14,000 MW this week, with nearly all of that characterized as planned maintenance. Aside from usual suspects, there was a 50 percent capacity reduction at PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear facility. Unit No. 2 was reduced to 550 MW of output for unspecified repairs on the secondary systems, according to a PG&E notice. Usually at this time of year, workers need to clear kelp and debris from water intake tunnels used for the cooling system. The unit is expected to return to full service over the weekend, said PG&E.

Otherwise, it appeared as if a very large number of Southern California units were offline-including much of the capacity at Encina, Alamitos, Ormand Beach and Long Beach facilities. In Northern California, Duke Energy's Moss Landing and Morro Bay facilities also reported substantial cuts to output, along with Mirant's Pittsburg and Potrero stations in the San Francisco region. In the Northwest, Colstrip No. 4 was said to be going off line for four day o tube leaks. And Four Corners continued to have ups and downs. Shortly after 150 MW returned at one unit, the facility dropped 360 MW at another.

Curiously, the Cal-ISO list changed dramatically Thursday, reporting about 2,000 MW fewer outages overall but a big increase in unplanned maintenance to 4,300 MW, with Coolwater 3 &4 (500 MW), Moss landing 6 (739 MW), and Pittsburg No. 7 (682 MW) being the biggest adds to the problem sheets.

After floundering in the low 20s at the start of the week, Western prices climbed to 30 mills in California. The California/Oregon Border was just above 25 mills, NP15 topped out at 30 mills and SP15 hit 30.5 mills/KWh-all from at stating point of 22.5 mills to 23.5 mills/KWh.

Palo Verde also was on the on a bell curve from 22 mills earlier to 30 mills/KWh midweek, the falling to 24.5 mills/KWh by some accounts. Off-peak prices were generally steady and followed gradations from 17 mills in the Northwest, to 18 mills in the Southwest and 19 to 19.5 mills/KWh at California points [Arthur O'Donnell].

Some Lift Left in Gas Markets

After several weeks in the doldrums, natural gas prices rose by as much as $0.25/MMBtu at many Western hubs, spurred by cold weather and a bump in national prices due to a big storage withdrawal report.

The American Gas Association reported that 137 Bcf of supplies were pulled from the well last week, showing an ever increasing trend after a slow start. Still, reservoirs remain about 77 percent full, with over 2.5 Tcf available for the rest of the season.

Though San Juan and Permian Basin prices were pretty much in lockstep all week, the SoCal Border price picked up substantially starting Monday. At its high it reached $2.37/MMBtu. Traders recall that is about 10 percent of the price one year ago, but electricity prices are also that much lower.

It was exactly one year ago California entered its state of emergency, and across the regions, traders were saying, "What a difference the year makes."

In Northern California, the SF CityGate was largely indistinguishable from the Topock price. Malin rose from $2.12 to $2.26.

Alberta picked up speed but seemed to hit resistance at the $(C)3.02/Gigajoule mark, slipping back a couple of pennies on Thursday [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of January 14-18, 2002
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 29-78 10.5-29
Mid-Columbia 18.5-23 17
COB 22.5-25.5 16.5-18
NP 15 22.5-30 17.5-19.5
SP 15 23-30.5 17.5-19
Palo Verde 22-30 15.5-18

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

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