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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
January 21, 2011
Western Power Experiences Erratic Price Swings

Mild weather meant less electricity demand and drastically lower power prices in the West this week.

During the Friday-to-Friday trading period spanning Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, most hubs saw a drastic decline in peak and off-peak power prices, with most of the losses coming toward the tail end of the period as the West experienced mild weather. Palo Verde ended the week with an average price for peak power of $18.61/MWh, down almost $15. Mid-Columbia peak closed Friday, Jan. 21 at an average of $18.51/MWh, down $9.50. Daytime power at the California-Oregon Border, meanwhile, dropped $8.15 to $23.57/MWh.

By contrast, South of Path 15 average peak power gained about 80 cents/MWh by Friday, closing at $36.60/MWh. North of Path 15's average peak price for Jan. 20 was $33.55/MWh, a drop of about $3.10 versus the previous Thursday. (NP15 recorded only three days of trading over the period. No Western hubs recorded trades Monday, Jan. 17, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day; in addition, NP15 peak did not trade on Wednesday or Friday.)

Over the trading period, off-peak power prices at Northwestern hubs lost $17 to $19/MWh, plummeting to an average Friday of around $5/MWh at Mid-C and $8 at COB. At California hubs, nighttime power lost around $7, finishing around $20/MWh.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 30,714 MW Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., the week's high. The system operator expects future demand to remain under 30,000 MW in the week ahead.

Natural gas spot prices in the West also varied during the Jan. 14-Jan. 21 trading period. The average price for Southern California Border gas dropped 19 cents during that time, ending at $4.41/MMBtu. Meanwhile, PG&E CityGate gas earned 13 cents, trading for $4.55, and Malin gas also gained, trading up 12 cents to $4.36/MMBtu.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a 243 Bcf draw from natural gas reserves provided a total of 2.716 Tcf in storage as of Friday, Jan. 14. The agency reports that unseasonably cold weather throughout the country prompted the sixth-greatest draw on record since the survey began in 2002. Working gas in storage remains at above-average levels nationally; however, working gas in storage in the West was 35 Bcf less than that in storage during this same week last year, according to the agency.

Henry Hub spot prices traded at $4.48/MMBtu Wednesday, Jan. 19, down 7 cents from Jan. 12, according to the EIA; by Friday, the average price was $4.72/MMBtu.

What's ahead: Starting Monday, Jan. 24, Seattle expects partly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 40s. Portland temperatures are forecast to be in the low 50s through Thursday, with dry, mild conditions. Similar conditions are expected in the San Francisco area, with sunny weather and temperatures in the high 50s Monday through Thursday. The Los Angeles area should have sunny weather in the 70s through Thursday. A system off the Central Coast will kick up winds in the Los Angeles and Ventura County areas Wednesday. Thursday, conditions begin cooling, but temperatures throughout the region are still expected to exceed seasonal norms [Linda Dailey Paulson].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: January 17 - 21, 2011
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 20.56-930.21 10.72-31.69
Mid-Columbia 16.50-30 1.50-24
COB 20.50-32.50 6-24.75
NP 15* 33.55-35.95 20-25.55
SP 15* 34.25-37 20-25.50
Palo Verde 29.75-34.25 17.25-25

* Prices represent both day-ahead locational marginal prices (financial swaps, or EZ Gen DA LMPs) and quasi-swap prices (EZ Gen) as reported by ICE.

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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