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Western Price Survey / Archives

February 18, 2000
Traders Close Shop Early for Holiday

With most power trading compressed into the first half of the week in advance of the Presidents' Day observation, Western market activity was light-to-nonexistent. Prices at bilateral hubs initially drifted upward on a string out unit outages, but then dropped for the low-load weekend. Few utilities reported much of a need to get into the market for purchases.

The California Power Exchange coasted on waves of peak prices between 33.2 mills and 35.4 mills/KWh with daily loads in the 458 GWh to 477 GWh range. The clearing price and daily load requirement hit the low end of the ranges again for Friday deliveries. Off-peak pricing remains unusually high throughout the market, but the Cal-PX index eroded to 27.6 mills/KWh for Friday deliveries from the 29 mills/KWh price set earlier.

A gradual uplift was recorded following announcements of unit outages, although it seemed that none of the incidents put much of a dent in the supply picture individually or cumulatively. "It's just one after another, after another," remarked a scheduler.

On Monday, strong winds in Wyoming were blamed for a brief outage at Idaho Power's 530 MW Jim Bridge station. In the late afternoon, the system recorded a minor voltage tremor when the 730 MW Colstrip No. 4 tripped. When the San Juan No. 3 plant went down, operators decided to move up a scheduled maintenance program, so that unit will be off for about three weeks. Unit No. 4, which had been off on a tube leak, returned to service Tuesday. Then on Wednesday morning, the Springville No. 1 plant tripped.

Also reported out were two Centrally units in Washington state and the 750 MW Navajo No. 2 in Arizona, which is on spring break for maintenance.

With most of the outages affecting the Southwest, prices at Palo Verde and Four Corners had been up to 33.25 mills/KWh. but late trades were reported as low as 30.25 mills/KWh. Off-peak hung at 24 mills to 25 mills/KWh.

More rains were recorded over the Northwest and Northern California, but hydro power is taking a back seat to natural gas in terms of setting marginal prices. The spread between on-peak and off-peak pricing was minimal, and Bonneville Power Administration simply posted the same prices for its daily surplus offerings-which moved up from 31 mills to 33 mills in the Northwest and from 32 mills to 34 mills/KWh into California. Those higher prices will remain in effect through next Tuesday, according to BPA.

At Mid-Columbia, the range for the week was 27 mills to 31 mills/KWh as traders tried to hang prices on the Cal-PX. The California/Oregon Border was a in the 30 mills to 33.25 range/KWh. However, those prices were not set in stone and marketers reported considerable haggling room because most buyers were content with their own supplies.

"We're not doing anything," a Northern California utility reported. "It's raining again and we're fat with hydro." Another water marketer said there was not much demand for his wares, but that was perfectly OK because it just meant more would go into storage.

The recent rains in California have moved precipitation, snowpack and storage levels into the season normal range, and many utility systems are breathing easier because of it.

The Northwest also is just about hitting its 30-year averages. Precipitation at The Dales in Oregon was 101 percent of normal this week, and projections for runoff through July were revised slightly downward to 99 percent of the 30-year average of 106 million acre- feet. As of this week storage on the federal system was 46 percent of capacity and natural streamflows were 93 percent of the norm.

While far less than last year, when rain and snow was 130 percent of the average, this year is proving to be quite normal [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Follows NYMEX Higher

In what has become a routine market event, natural gas in the West looked to national benchmarks for its sense of direction, taking a late-week hike on the upward trend seen in NYMEX futures. Still, there was no new ground for prices, which had started the week higher, softened and returned again. The big change was to Alberta prices, which started out at $(C)3.06/Gigajoule but jumped to $3.17/Gj before settling out at $3.15.5/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of February 14-18, 2000
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 36-149 23-41
California PX (WAC) 33.2-35.4 27-29.12
Mid-Columbia 27-31 27-28
COB 30.5-33.25 28-29
Palo Verde 30.25-34.5 23-25

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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