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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
January 22, 2010
Peak Prices Ignore Storm, Barely Budge; Nighttime Prices Rise

Peak electricity prices disregarded a series of storms that pounded California and Arizona this week, causing power outages and dumping snow, rain and high winds across the state. A shortened trading week and minor increases in Western natural gas prices had little effect on power trades.

Over the week, spot Western natural gas prices added 11 cents to 22 cents/MMBtu, with nearly all of the increase coming on the Friday trade date for weekend and Monday delivery.

California peak power gained about $1 to average $54.38/MWh at North of Path 15 and $53.62 at South of Path 15. Average off-peak trades at NP15 jumped $5 to $44.63/MWh, and southern values rose $4 to $42.84.

Palo Verde daytime power dropped $1 to average $48.17, while nighttime prices increased $3 to $38.70.

Severe storms, with reports of hail, snow, lightning and tornado-like winds, had knocked out power to more than 100,000 people throughout California during the week, and crews were still working Friday to restore power to some customers, especially in Southern California.

Electricity demand in California steadily climbed this week from 30,400 MW on Monday to 31,600 MW on Thursday, the California Independent System Operator reported. Peak usage was expected to slide to 30,110 MW on Friday.

California will continue to get stormy weather through early next week, but temperatures will warm up into the mid-50s in San Francisco and the high 60s in Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.

Hurricane-strength winds and more than an inch of rain battered Phoenix on Thursday and Friday and led to power outages for about 20,000, according to Arizona Public Service. Up to 7 inches of rain and several feet of snow have fallen in Arizona, prompting flash flooding and road closures. But the rain is expected to end this weekend.

Portland won't escape the rain pounding the West Coast until early next week, but Seattle will remain partly sunny. Temperatures in both cities are in the upper 40s to low 50s, the National Weather Service said.

At the California-Oregon border, average peak prices were up almost $1 to $52.23/MWh. Off-peak values added well over $5 to average $43.50.

Average Mid-Columbia prime trades inched up 49 cents to $48.49/MWh, while off-prime values clocked in a $5 increase to $42.69.

Freezing temperatures across much of the country sent natural gas stockpiles plummeting 245 Bcf last week to 2.607 Tcf, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. The withdrawal was twice as large as the five-year average drawdown and 50 percent bigger than last year's withdrawal.

In the last two weeks, the total drawdown was 511 Bcf, blasting past the previous two-week record of 483 Bcf set almost three years ago, and setting an all-time record in the EIA's 16-year tracking history.

Nationwide, storage is now 0.9 percent higher than last year but 0.2 percent lower than the five-year average.

In the West, 18 Bcf of natural gas was removed from storage last week, pushing inventories to 396 Bcf. Still, supplies are 9.4 percent higher than last year and 16.1 percent greater than the five-year average.

The next storage report is not likely to show such a big drawdown for this week. As frigid cold loosened its grip on the country, demand for natural gas for heating and power fell this week along with prices. On Wednesday, Bentek Energy reported that the daily average demand for natural gas had dipped by about 25 percent to 79 Bcf. Residential and commercial daily use fell to 41 Bcf, down 27 percent. (cont.)

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant's two units have been operating at lower production since Wednesday to protect the plant's water-intake system from high stormy waves. The first and second units, which each can generate up to 1,130 MW, were each at 49 percent capacity on Friday. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's first unit, meanwhile, remains sidelined for the replacement of its two steam generators [Kristina Shevory].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: January 18 - 22, 2010
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 18.08-172.76 12.39-48.75
Mid-Columbia 43.75-49.550 36.50-43.25
COB 48-53 37.50-43.75
NP 15* 50.25-55 39-44.75
SP 15* 49.75-54.50 38-43.25
Palo Verde 45-49.50 34.75-40.75

* 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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