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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
Febuary 13, 2009
Power Prices Taken Down by Weak Natural Gas Prices, Rain

Electricity prices wilted in the face of another round of rain showers, weakening natural gas prices and an abbreviated trading schedule. Declines in power were $1 to $5/MWh for the week, while natural gas prices were off an average of about 30 cents/MMBtu across the West.

Trading was sped up this week because the energy markets will be closed on Monday in honor of President's Day. Monday electricity deliveries traded on Thursday.

California is finally getting a much-needed dose of rain this week, and a string of storms off the coast promises more through Monday. More than a foot of snow, teamed with strong winds, is expected in some Golden State mountains areas, AccuWeather said.

San Franciscans should steel themselves for more rain through the weekend, along with temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s. Rain will also fall in Los Angeles off and on this weekend, and temperatures will hit a high of 60 degrees. It will be mostly sunny in Phoenix with temperatures in the low 60s.

California power demand gradually ebbed from 31,200 MW at the start of the week to 30,100 MW on Thursday, Cal-ISO said. Friday usage was expected to pop up to 30,300 MW before slipping to 29,700 MW this weekend.

California daytime prices settled at an average of $42.25/MWh, down more than $4 at North of Path 15, while South of Path 15 dipped $5 to $41.30. Average nighttime values shed $2 to $33/MWh in the north, while they added 43 cents to $31 in the south.

Average Palo Verde peak power lost over $3 to while off-peak trades climbed over $1 (see chart).

Peak California-Oregon border prices fell about $4 to average $41.65/MWh, while off-peak trades were off about $1.50 to $38.27/MWh.

At the Mid-Columbia hub, average prime trades dropped more than $2 to $40.65/MWh. Nighttime values lost $1 to settle at an average of $38.88/MWh.

It will be rainy and cool in Portland, with temperatures hitting a high of 47 degrees on Sunday. Partly sunny skies are in the forecast for Seattle, along with temperatures in the high 40s.

Warm weather returned to much of the country last week, driving natural gas prices down dramatically. In the Northeast, values plunged by nearly 39 percent to an average of $5.26/MMbtu, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Plunging spot prices last week persuaded producers to pull more natural gas out of storage. Working natural gas in storage fell by 159 Bcf when NYMEX future prices fell lower than Henry Hub spot prices last week, the EIA reported. At 2.020 Tcf, inventories are 2.2 percent higher than a year ago and 1.2 percent above than the five-year average.

Mild, spring-like weather in the West kept storage nearly even, with a withdrawal of 7 Bcf to 327 Bcf. Storage in the West is 39.1 percent higher than last year and 26.3 percent above than the five-year average.

Natural gas storage should remain robust, according to the EIA's short-term energy outlook. Businesses and homeowners will use 1.3 percent less natural gas this year and then increase usage by 0.6 percent in 2010. But despite the recession and lower demand, natural gas production will rise 1.1 percent this year and then fall by the same amount in 2010.

Overall, the EIA expects natural gas inventories to close out the winter heating season, which ends March 31, at 1.5 Tcf, or about 100 Bcf above the five-year average.

Electricity usage across the country will also dip this year to the tune of 0.8 percent, according to the EIA. Residential electricity prices, though, will continue to increase this year and next.

The Bonneville Power Administration is one such utility trying to raise power rates. The agency, which supplies over a third of the Northwest's electricity, is looking to increase rates by 7 to 8 percent as higher costs for salmon recovery projects and lower profits from the sale of excess energy hammer its revenue. The economic slowdown and low water levels at its dams have led to lower profits thus far [Kristina Shevory].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: February 9 - 13, 2009
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 24.99-150.63 17.02-97.54
Mid-Columbia 39.75-45 38-41.50
COB 40.75-46 37.75-41
NP 15 37.15-49 32.50-37.25
SP 15 36-48 29.50-34.50
Palo Verde 32.25-42.50 25-33.50

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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