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Western Price Survey / Archives

March 1, 2002
SONGS Outage Only a Blip in Otherwise Calm Market

The imbalance energy prices on the California Independent System Operator's charts briefly tested the $108/MWh cap price on Wednesday, as the 1,080 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station tripped off line, sending about 210,000 San Diego Gas & Electric customers into a controlled outage and grid operators scrambling for replacement power.

There was little long-term impact, however, and within a few hours power was restored to all areas affected and real-time energy prices returned to normal levels.

The incident occurred at the SONGS switchyard, where crews had been working on the main electrical bus this week. The backup facility experienced a short about 10:42 am, sending the unit into an automatic scram. While such outages require a few days to restore service, the unit is expected back to full capacity on Monday.

During the Hour Ending 11 (HE11) period, the Cal-ISO price reached the cap, then receded to $105/MWh for a while during HE12. Later in the day, zonal prices climbed to about $77/MWh throughout the state, but the increase was not sustained and appeared to have no effect on prescheduled power prices when traders came in on Thursday.

Because of the heavy load of capacity sitting idle- either in planned maintenance or for economic reasons- Cal-ISO had little trouble finding replacement power. SDG&E took the opportunity to lobby for its Valley/Rainbow transmission project, currently being considered for permitting at the California Public Utilities Commission. The utility said that if the project is constructed, it will not be vulnerable to such outages. The incident required a brief curtailment of 300 MW in several communities, but power was said to be back by 11:30 am.

With the inclusion of SONGS No. 3, the Cal-ISO outage list boosted to over 14,100 MW Thursday, with 8,240 MW of that located South of Path 15.

Other than that the market had been calm. A high pressure ridge kept clouds and cool weather out to sea; California in particular exhibited definite spring-like tendencies with temperatures in the 70s in many places and Riverside even logging 90 degrees on Monday. That was in stark contrast to much of the rest of the country, where temperatures had plummeted and late snowfalls reminded everyone that winter is not quite over.

Prescheduled prices were still stuck in the low to mid-20s throughout the region. Palo Verde and SP15 showed a little more action but even that movement was in a limited range of 1 to 2 mills/KWh during the week. Late in the week, Northern California prices bumped up to 29 mills/KWh for some transactions, but there was no immediate reason given.

Loads were steady and generally lower than forecast in California, with the California Independent System Operator reporting peaks of less than 30,400 MW.

Returning to service this week was the Columbia Generating Station, which completed repairs and inspections on circuit breaker systems over the weekend. The return of the nuclear plant allowed Bonneville Power Administration to resume daily sales of 200 MW in day and night periods after a week's hiatus [Arthur O'Donnell].

Change of Month Trims Gas Expectations

While much of the rest of the nation turned up the thermostats to ward off a last winter assault, Western markets were insulted by a blanket of high pressure systems that brought warm temperatures and moderating gas demand.

Upward price movement was noted early in the week, but the increases were cut by another bearish gas storage report and the change in monthly contracts.

The American Gas Association reported that just 64 Bcf of gas was pulled from national wells, leaving a very healthy supply in the ground heading into spring. With 1.88 Tcf available for withdrawals, the national storage capacity is well above the five-year average of 1.25 Tcf for this time of year.

At Western hubs, the Permian, Texas, price moved above that of the San Juan Basin, largely on pulls from the center of the nation, where extreme cold hit early in the week before moderating. San Juan prices moved from $2.16/MMBtu on Monday up to about $2.28. Permian, however, went all the way up to $2.31 before giving back a few pennies.

The SoCal Border price stayed in a range from $2.26 to $2.38/MMBtu.

After starting strong, the SF CityGate dropped on Tuesday, picked up some of the loss midweek, then settled out at $2.35/MMBtu.

Although Midwest demand picked up, the Alberta gas price change was limited in the $3.29 to $3.33/Gigajoule range [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of February 25-March 1, 2002
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 9.75-68.5 9.5-23.5
Mid-Columbia 22.5-23.5-26 20-21.75
COB 23.5-26 20-21
NP 15 25.5-29 20.5
SP 15 25-26.5 19.75-20.25
Palo Verde 23.5-25.5 16-17.25

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.


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