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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
March 11, 2011
Western Energy Prices Still Soggy

Excess hydropower in the Pacific Northwest and soggy demand throughout the West continue depressing spot power prices. These market conditions may persist as still more rain is forecast in the week ahead.

The Bonneville Power Administration reported hydro generation peaking at around 14,400 MW this week and wind generation peaks of around 2,950 MW. Meanwhile, California prices remain fairly static as demand stays low. Peak electricity use on the Cal-ISO grid reached 29,612 MW Wednesday, the week's high, and use is not expected to exceed 28,700 MW in the week ahead.

Here's how average peak power prices fared in the Friday-to-Friday trading period from March 4-11:

  • California-Oregon Border: Down $4.35 to around $21.90/MWh.
  • Mid-Columbia: Down $7.95 to $16.10/MWh.
  • South of Path 15: Down $1.25 to $31.95/MWh.
  • North of Path 15: Posted no trades March 11; in trading Thursday, March 3 to Thursday, March 10, prices were down about 60 cents to $28.50/MWh.
  • Palo Verde: Finished at about $28.25/MWh, a 35 cent loss.

Over the period, off-peak power also lost value, with Mid-C dropping to a low of $2.50/MWh but ending at an average of $9/MWh, down about $6 over the trading period. Palo Verde average off-peak power, meanwhile, gained $1.90 to $19.75/MWh.

Overall moderate weather across the U.S., along with adequate storage, has kept natural gas prices soft. Henry Hub spot prices traded at an average of $3.78/MMBtu on Friday, March 11, up 7 cents from the previous Friday. Meanwhile, Western natural gas values were nominally lower over the trading period. By Friday, Malin gas lost 10 cents over the previous Friday to close at $3.67/MMBtu. Southern California Border gas was down around a nickel to $3.65/MMBtu.

The earthquake and related tsunami that hit Japan did not disrupt generation Friday at California's coastal nuclear power plants, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, despite Tsunami warnings for the Pacific Coast.. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues monitoring conditions in the West, however, as they relate to Diablo Canyon, San Onofre, the Humboldt Bay spent-fuel storage site and NRC-regulated nuclear materials sites in Hawaii and Alaska.

Meanwhile, provided there is no disruption in generation, the Columbia Generating Station should set a new record for continuous operation as of Monday, March 14. The Richland, Wash., nuclear facility, run by Energy Northwest, will have been operating for 486 consecutive days. The facility previously operated for 485 days in a row, a record set in 2006.

What's ahead: Rainy, unsettled weather is predicted to continue in the Pacific Northwest through midweek. Portland forecasters warn some flooding may occur late Sunday or early Tuesday. The San Francisco area stays in the 60s starting Monday, with rain anticipated in the North Bay Tuesday. There is a slight possibility of precipitation in San Francisco Tuesday and Wednesday. The greater Los Angeles area, meanwhile, expects "a little preview of June," with low clouds and fog during the week and temperatures around 70 F. Rain is possible Thursday and more probable Friday [Linda Dailey Paulson].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: March 7 - 11, 2011
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 16.35-365.69 12.50-39.23
Mid-Columbia 3.75-22 2.50-16.50
COB 10-24.75 5.75-18
NP 15* 28.50-31.90 n/a-n/a
SP 15** 30-33 12.50-21
Palo Verde 24.50-32 13-20

*Prices represent both day-ahead locational marginal prices (financial swaps, or EZ Gen DA LMPs) and quasi-swap prices (EZ Gen) as reported by ICE.
** No pricing data available March 11, 2011.

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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