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Western Price Survey / Archives

January 28, 2005
Western Prices Remain Calm

The price of power in the Northwest remained practically static during the first half of this week, while in California and the Southwest, power costs were shaved down a bit in an atmosphere of ample supply and ho-hum load levels. By the end of the week the cost of the commodity for peak-time deliveries in those two regions returned to levels recorded on Monday, while off-peak prices throughout the West moved up in late-week dealings.

As was the case last week, electricity prices in the Eastern spot markets remained markedly above those in the West. Tuesday's price in the New England Power Pool--between 88 mills and 95 mills/KWh--probably looked awfully good to buyers in that market on Wednesday, when triple-digit costs of up to 148 mills/KWh were recorded. The driving forces behind the high prices are continuing freezing temperatures and major snowstorms.

In California, similar prices persisted in both the northern and southern halves of the state. Daytime power trading started out the week in the range of 54.75 mills to 56 mills/KWh in the state. By Wednesday, the price north of Path 15 had slipped to a low of 50.25 mills/KWh, while south of Path 15 power packages changed hands for between 50 mills and 53 mills/KWh. Off-peak power drew between 33 mills and 37.25 mills/KWh in California early this week, but skipped up to about 44 mills/KWh in Friday trading.

Palo Verde peak power prices opened on Monday in the range of 48.25 mills to 49 mills/KWh, slipped down to between 44.50 mills and 46.25 mills by the middle of the week, then edged back up to 48.25 mills/KWh for next-Monday deliveries. Off-peak prices at Palo Verde hit a low of 27.50 mills/KWh in Tuesday trading before closing out the week in the range of 33.50 mills to 40 mills/KWh.

Mid-Columbia power muddled around in the low to mid-forties this week. With temperatures nowhere near freezing in the moist Pacific Northwest, there was little volatility in power prices. Nighttime power at Mid-C did manage to gain in late-week trading. After idling between 35.50 mills and 38 mills/KWh for much of the week, trades were valued just above 40 mills/KWh on Friday.

After hovering near the 80 percent to 85 percent level for a couple of weeks, both units at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are operating at full output. The curtailment had been required by work at the new Viejo Substation in Southern California Edison territory. In fact, all nuclear units in the Western states were at 100 percent of capacity all this week.

Mirant's No. 3 unit at the Potrero power plant in San Francisco has gone on a long-planned and much-stalled extended outage for the purpose of retrofitting the plant's emissions-related equipment. The 206 MW unit began the planned outage on January 15.

Also off line this week were AES' Huntington Beach Units No. 2 and No. 4--rated at 225 MW and 227 MW, respectively--both on forced outages. Reliant Energy's Etiwanda Units No. 3 and No. 4 were ramped down on Tuesday for unplanned reasons. Unit No. 3, which had 294 MW of its 319 MW capacity off line that morning, returned to service in the late afternoon. The 320 MW Unit No. 4 returned sometime before Wednesday morning.

The California Independent System Operator called a transmission emergency early Thursday morning when the Pacific DC Intertie tripped off line, sending way too much power onto Path 15 and the California-Oregon Intertie. The grid manager called the emergency, which lasted from 2:53 am to 4 am, to avoid a system overload [Shauna O'Donnell].

The West is Best for Gas Buyers

Cold temperatures and increased demand for natural gas in the East had their effect on the most recent storage-withdrawal figures from the Energy Information Administration. In the week ending January 21, a whopping 230 Bcf was taken out of the nation's underground storage facilities--148 Bcf in the Eastern region alone.

The price of gas in the daily market peaked at $45/MMBtu in East Coast transactions last Thursday but still hovered near the $20 mark this week. Like pricking a balloon with a pin, the cost deflated this Friday, sinking to between $6.50 and $10/MMBtu.

Meanwhile, gas prices in the West languished this week, expressing very little volatility from day to day. For example, after opening the week between $5.55 and $5.63/MMBtu, Permian Basin gas edged up to a high of $5.70/MMBtu Thursday, only to close the week down between $5.45 and $5.53/MMBtu. Topock deliveries slipped gradually from $5.82 early in the week to between $5.63 and $5.72/MMBtu on Friday [S. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
January 24 - 28
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 11.12-264.70 10.84-257.61
Mid-Columbia 41.75-45.75 35.50-41
COB 44.75-48.25 36.25-42
NP 15 51-56 35.50-44.50
SP 15 51.25-55.50 33-43.25
Palo Verde 44.50-49 27.50-40

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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