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Western Price Survey

January 18, 2019
Energy Prices Spike as Western Temperatures Drop

Cooler weather triggered higher regional power and natural gas prices in anticipation of increased demand.

California daytime power prices jumped more than $10 in Jan. 10 to Jan. 17 trading. South of Path 15 added the most, up $14.70 to $53.35/MWh. At the end of trading, prices ranged from $35.25/MWh at Palo Verde to $54.80/MWh at North of Path 15.

Off-peak power prices experienced similar gains, with California-Oregon Border adding $10.50 to rise to $38.25/MWh. By Jan. 17, nighttime prices ranged from to $31/MWh at Palo Verde to $41.50/MWh at both North and South of Path 15.

Henry Hub gas spot prices added 57 cents in trading, ending at $3.52/MMBtu.

Most Western natural gas hubs gained between 34 cents and as much as $1.25. Opal/Kern, which ended at $4.15/MMBtu, jumped $1.25 in trading. Five hubs gained more than $1 between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17. El Paso-Permian Basin gas was the exception, losing 15 cents to end up at $1.88/MMBtu.

Working natural gas in storage was 2,533 Bcf as of Jan. 11, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This was a net decrease of 81 Bcf compared with the previous week.

Nationwide natural gas use increased 18 percent week over week, according to the EIA. Natural gas use for power generation increased 14 percent.

Although Southern California Gas Co. has not yet reported any withdrawals from the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility for the week via its ENVOY reporting system, the utility did issue a systemwide request on Jan. 14 for voluntary curtailment of natural gas power generation between Jan. 14 and 18, citing “cold weather and high customer demand.”

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California Independent System Operator demand reached 29,294 MW Jan. 14, which should be the week’s high. Imported sources delivered 9,822 MW or roughly 33.5 percent of demand that day.

Total renewables on the CAISO grid reached 9,558 MW Jan. 13, satisfying roughly 36 percent of demand.

The 1,200-MW Columbia Generating Station ramped down briefly Jan. 12 for planned maintenance on its condensate system and returned to full operating power the same day, according to Mike Paoli, Energy Northwest spokesman.

The agency recently announced the facility produced 9.7 million MWh in 2018—more than any other year in its 34-year operation. The prior record of 9.6 million MWh was set in 2016. Increases since 2011 are the result of maintenance and upgrades that have added roughly 60 MW to the plant’s capacity, according to Energy Northwest. –Linda Dailey Paulson

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


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