Western Price Survey
March 14, 2014
With plentiful solar and wind in California and plentiful hydropower in the Pacific Northwest, Western power prices had little room to climb this week.
California solar-power production hit a new record March 8, when generation reached 4,093 MW. The previous high of 3,926 MW was recorded the day before.
Solar generation has more than tripled since June 2013, according to Cal-ISO, and output has more than quadrupled compared to the summer of 2012. Renewable-energy production is now outpacing that of thermal power in some hours (see "Power Gauge," next page).
Meanwhile, river flows in the Pacific Northwest are at 103 percent of normal at The Dalles as of March 13. The seasonal increase in hydro generation appears to be occurring a bit earlier than typical, with production above 10,000 MW throughout the week.
The excess water sent Mid-Columbia off-peak spot prices into negative territory at week's end. The hub fell to a low of -$1/MWh on Friday, March 14, ending at an average of $2.50/MWh.
Prices appear unaffected by conditions at the Wanapum Dam. Generation remains at 360 MW after a large crack was discovered in a Wanapum spillway. Chuck Allen of Grant County PUD says current capacity is 700 MW due to upgrades and maintenance. The rated full capacity at the dam is 1,092 MW.
By March 14, California peak-power prices fell two to three dollars on average from the previous Friday. Mid-Columbia values tumbled $12.35 in the trading period, ending at $16.30 Friday (see chart).
Western off-peak power prices ended Friday-to-Friday trading mixed. Northwestern spot prices lingered in negative territory, but ended above water. Palo Verde gained $3.05 to $32.90/MWh while Mid-Columbia led losers, down $14.55 to $2.50/MWh.
Working gas in storage reached 1,001 Bcf as of Friday, March 7, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 195 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 48.9 percent less than a year ago and 46.2 percent less than the five-year average. The Western region saw a 21 Bcf withdrawal during the agency's report period.
Henry Hub natural gas values fell 50 cents since last Thursday, trading March 13 at $4.40/MMBtu. Western prices followed suit, dropping between 28 and 63 cents on average. Southern California Border gas lost 46 cents to $4.41/MMBtu and PG&E CityGate was down 29 cents, trading at $3.82/MMBtu by March 13 (see table) [Linda Dailey Paulson].
Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.
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