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Western Price Survey

Febuary 8, 2008
Power Prices Rise on Storms, Natural Gas and Outages, Then Fall Back

Another round of storms, higher natural gas prices, and nuclear outages boosted power prices through the middle of this week. But values fell back Thursday, and prices ended the week lower than where they started.

Rising temperatures, lower weekend demand and the resumption of full production at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California were chalked up as driving the late-week price drops.

The California-Oregon border saw both daytime and nighttime values slide this week. Peak electricity slumped from $76.54 to an average of $72.25/MWh on Friday, while nighttime power edged down $3 to $62.90/MWh.

The Mid-Columbia trading hub had prime power prices slip from $73.60 to an average of $68.18/MWh on Friday. Off-peak power prices dropped $3 to an average of $62.26/MWh.

In California and Arizona, average peak values fell through the week, while off-peak prices edged up $2 to $4 at each hub. Daytime power at North of Path 15 fell about $4 to $76.24/MWh on Friday. Night power climbed $3 to an average of $63.68/MWh.

Southern California saw peak prices for South of Path 15 retreat $4 to an average of $75.84/MWh. Off-peak prices rose $4 to about $63.32/MWh.

In Arizona, prime values skidded from $69.61 to an average of $67.28/MWh. Nighttime deliveries finished at $55.58/MWh, up $2 over Monday.

What's ahead: In the Pacific Northwest, Portland and Seattle continue to see rain, but temperatures have risen and should be in the high 40s to low 50s this weekend. Recent storms have dropped more than 10 feet of snow across the Cascades this winter, AccuWeather reported. More of the same is projected today, with one to two feet of snow falling in Washington and six inches in Oregon.

California is getting a balmy pass. Sunny skies and patchy fog, with temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s, are San Francisco's only concerns. Palm Springs and Los Angeles will fare even better, with sunny skies and highs in the 70s this weekend. Phoenix will warm some with highs in the low to mid-70s.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant's 1,130 MW second unit went off line this week for what will be the plant's biggest planned outage in history. The outage, which involves refueling and replacing four steam generators, will last two months. Meanwhile, the 1,100 MW third unit at SONGS came back on line. The outage, which lasted a few days, required maintenance on one of the unit's two feedwater pumps.

American nuclear power plants hit a high in electricity production last year, generating around 806 billion kWh, the Nuclear Energy Institute reported this week. The country's 104 plants broke the previous record of 788.5 billion kWh set in 2004.

More power was produced at nuclear stations last year than in previous years. Nuclear plants had average capacity factors of 91.8 percent, up from the previous record of 90.1 percent four years ago. Average production costs were lower, too, at 1.68 cents/kWh last year. The previous record low set three years ago was 1.72 cents/kWh [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Prices Rise on Cold Weather, Storage Drawdown

Natural gas prices climbed through Wednesday on cold weather and increased heating demand, but fell back the remainder of the week on warming temperatures.

However, prices still finished the week higher than where they started on Monday. Increases were modest, ranging from 30 cents to 40 cents/MMBtu at the major Western trading hubs. Average natural gas prices ranged from $7.48/MMBtu at San Juan to $8.06/MMBtu at PG&E's CityGate.

Cold weather helped shrink natural gas stockpiles by the second-largest amount this winter. Supplies of natural gas in underground storage shrank by 200 Bcf to 2.062 Tcf across the country last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. The drawdown leaves supplies more than 13 percent below last year's, but 3 percent above the five-year average.

Frigid temperatures in the West shaved supplies of the heating fuel, with stocks dipping 31 Bcf to 254 Bcf. The decrease left the gas in storage 9.3 percent below last year's stocks and 9 percent below the five-year average as well [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: February 4 - 8, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 15.80-244.97 15.30-71.84
Mid-Columbia 67-75 55-68
COB 70-78.25 59.50-67.50
NP 15 73.25-82.25 58.25-64.25
SP 15 73-82 58-64
Palo Verde 64.75-75.50 50-58

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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