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Western Price Survey / Archives

March 7, 2003
Prices Trade Mad Dash for Cruise Control

Bilateral power prices this week continued to find support from the natural gas market but managed to stay out the stratosphere. Warmer temperatures helped keep premiums at lower altitudes than those seen last week, though dry conditions in the Northwest and near- trickle hydro levels didn't let prices fall too far.

Prices did not ascend to 100 mills/KWh, but this week's watchword remained the same: "Expensive," said one trader, flatly summing up recent transactions. NP15 premiums climbed to 88 mills, with prices at southern counterpart SP15 rising to 86.5 mills/KWh for heavy-load hours.

At the California-Oregon border, peak prices ranged from about 73 mills to 83 mills/KWh. Mid-Columbia prices tracked lower, reaching a high of 82 mills/KWh. In the Southwest, Palo Verde trades followed a wider path, sliding between 64.75 mills and 83 mills/KWh.

Off-peak prices ran lowest south of path 15, with SP15 and Palo Verde power netting as little as 50 mills/KWh. The low point for light-load prices at Mid- C and COB held at about 64 mills, with NP15 dipping to 57 mills/KWh.

The Bonneville Power Administration entered the sales market this week only for Wednesday, making a mere 100 MW of peak power available. BPA posted no offer for deliveries occurring Tuesday through Saturday, then repeated its 100 MW offer for Sunday and Monday supplies.

On the California Independent System Operator grid, demand peaked at 29,741 MW on Monday and stepped down each day afterward, with Thursday's peak load measured at about 29,100 MW. The number of unplanned generation outages also shrank this week. On Thursday, the amount of capacity off line totaled 1,445 MW. Notable absences included Reliant Energy's 320 MW Etiwanda No. 4 unit.

Diablo Canyon No. 2 ramped down Wednesday night for "routine testing", according to owner Pacific Gas & Electric. The unit was operating at 80 percent on Thursday and returned to full power later in the day.

At the Columbia Generating Station, crews are still working to fix high-frequency vibrations and associated problems that led to the shutdown of auxiliary diesel generator 1. Estimates of when the plant will resume production are not available.

Prices and loads reported at Canada's Alberta hub were fairly moderate, with the exception of a peak-hour spike to 352.14 mills. Demand peaked at 8,222 MW [Jason Mihos].

Gas Still in High Gear

Forecasts of stinging cold weather moderated somewhat this week, leaving daily gas prices short compared to last week's amazing performance. Nonetheless, premiums remain far higher than levels seen at this time last year, due in part to another report of faltering storage inventory.

Futures prices on the NYMEX exchange wavered from day to day, bumping spot prices back and forth slightly.

The federal government's Energy Information Administration announced that gas in storage fell to 838 Bcf at the end of February. Stored gas the previous week totaled 1,014 Bcf. Compared to this time last year, the amount of gas in storage has plummeted by 981 Bcf.

Prices around the West obligingly stayed below $10/MMBtu this week and headed into the weekend in retreat. Both CityGate and Malin topped out at an even $9, with CityGate ranging as low as $6.95 and the Malin minimum settling at $6.81/MMBtu on Friday.

At the basins, Permian slipped as low as $6.45 but mostly roamed the $7 range, hitting a high of $8/MMBtu. San Juan prices traveled from $5.60 to $7.55 before dropping to $4.80/MMBtu at the end of the week. Gas at the Southern California border traded for as much as $8.35/MMBtu.

Prices at the AECO hub in Canada neared last week's high-wire act, notching up to $9.22/MMBtu. Gas at AECO traded at a low of $6.65/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of March 3-7, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 13.78-352.14 19.08-114.39
Mid-Columbia 66.25-82 64-73.5
COB 73.75-83 63-71.5
NP 15 70.5-88 57-72
SP 15 70-86.5 50-71
Palo Verde 64.75-83 50-67

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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