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Western Price Survey / Archives

March 10, 2000
Different Hubs Dance to Different Price Beats

While the trading week ended up with prices at Western hubs falling into standard striations, how they got there was not at all predictable. Once again, there were few real market drivers this week and prices rose and fell in different regions without a strong sense of unity.

Rains continued to hit Northern California, helping add to rising reservoir levels and mountain snowpack. An unexpected high pressure zone midweek pushed the storm into the Pacific Northwest, but hydroelectric managers there still appear concerned about long-term water supplies.

Buying trends signaled an increase in south-to-north flows on transmission lines as Northwest buyers found it economical to make deals at the California/Oregon Border and import energy rather than use their precious water for generation.

In the Northwest there was not much difference between day and nighttime pricing, especially late in the week when peak energy fell to 26.5 mills/KWh from the week's high of about 29 mills/KWh.

Off-peak energy had been strong in the 25 mills to 26 mills band all week.

Bonneville Power Administration seemed to be reducing its posted prices for surplus energy earlier in the week, but then sensed that California border prices allowed for a boost back to the 28 mills and 29 mills/KWh level. Off-peak energy was 26.5 for Northwest deliveries and 27 mills at COB.

COB transactions took a boost on Tuesday to 33 mills, but reversed course later-dropping to 29 mills and 30 mills by Thursday. Off-peak mimicked the Mid-Columbia price at 26 mills/KWh before trailing to a price closer to that set by the California Power Exchange.

Cal-PX clearing prices also rose and fell, but in the tight 30 mills to 32.3 mills/KWh range. Off-peak power hit as high as 25.8 for Tuesday but dropped to 22 mills before ending the week at 22.8 mils/KWh.

There was little or no transmission congestion reported, but that may change next week with Intertie curtailments.

The DC Intertie will restrict north-to-south flows to 1900 MW from March 13 through March 19. Over next weekend, the AC line will drop to just 600 MW while BPA conducts facilities tests. Traders predicted little market impact, unless Northwest waters really begin to rise and the resulting energy gets trapped in the region because of transmission constraints. That would depress prices in the North.

Although the Palo Verde and Four Corners markets were isolated from the dynamics of California and the Northwest, prices responded to other factors. One scheduler blamed "euphoria" of high summer period futures prices for driving Palo Verde up to 33 mills/KWh late on Wednesday. Since there was nothing to sustain that price, there was a quick -turnaround to the 28.5 to 30 mills/KWh level by Thursday.

Rains in the Southwest did not add to utility loads, and off-peak prices slipped to the 22 mills to 23 mills/KWh level.

There were few outages of note, expect for another steam leak at San Juan No. 3 that could keep the facility off-line until Saturday.

Cold weather appeared to hit Calgary, driving loads and prices higher on the Alberta Power Pool. peak energy spiked to 151 mills/KWh for a few hours Thursday and off-peak hours featured unusually high price support at 40 mills/KWh [Arthur O'Donnell].

Erosion besets gas market

The general trend for gas markets was downhill this week, until the very late trades on Thursday when NYMEX futures jumped about $0.10/MMBtu. There was not a direct impact on daily spot prices, but traders anticipated an echo to reverberate through the market for next week's deliveries.

Though prices were relatively high earlier in the week-with the Southern California Border price hiking to $2.92/MMBtu and Southwest basins crossing into the $2.70/MMBtu bracket, things dropped off significantly Thursday with healthy spreads between price points.

Topock settled at $2.76, Permian was $2.58 and San Juan closed at $2.48/MMBtu. While the west was mild, colder weather was anticipated in the Midwest and that could drive Texas prices higher, traders said

It was chillier in Northern California, but not so cold that prices moved any higher than where they have been.

San Francisco CityGate prices hit the$3.00 plateau much of the week, as gas power plants provided backup for morning and evening peak periods. That hub slipped to $2.93 to $2.95, however.

The Alberta index hovered at $(C)3.50 most of the week before dropping to $3.43 at the close Thursday [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of March 6-10, 2000
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 39-151 24-40
California PX (WAC) 30.6-32.36 21.9-25.8
Mid-Columbia 25-29.25 25-26
COB 29.5-33 25-26.5
Palo Verde 29.5-33 22-23

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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