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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
March 18, 2011
Northwest Electricity Prices Jump

Pacific Northwest spot power prices rose significantly while California prices remained mostly steady for yet another week.

The Bonneville Power Administration reported that hydro generation was still strong this week, though it did not peak past 14,000 MW as it had in previous weeks. Wind production the week of March 14 also did not see production of more than 3,000 MW that characterized previous episodes of extremely low pricing in BPA's area.

Meanwhile in California, power demand remained around 29,000 MW for the week and is not expected to significantly surpass this figure in the week ahead.

Here's how average daytime power prices fared in the Friday-to-Friday trading period spanning March 11 to March 18:

  • California-Oregon Border: Up $7.75 to $29.65/MWh.
  • Mid-Columbia: Up $12.80 to $28.95/MWh.
  • South of Path 15: Up about 85 cents to $32.80/MWh.
  • North of Path 15 posted no trades March 11. In trading Thursday, March 10 to March 17, prices increased about $2.60, ending at around $31.10/MWh.
  • Palo Verde: Ended at about $29.95/MWh, an increase of about $1.65.

Nighttime power prices also gained value across the board during the trading period, with Mid-C up by about $17.25 and ending at $26.15/MWh. Prices for off-peak power ranged from about $23.60/MWh to roughly $26.55/MWh. NP15 reported no trades for off-peak power.

Western natural gas prices were also higher during the week. By Friday, March 18, PG&E CityGate gas was up 35 cents over the previous Friday to close at $4.27/MMBtu. Malin gas increased 20 cents to end at $3.97/MMBtu and Southern California Border gas increased 23 cents, closing at $3.88/MMBtu.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated Wednesday that unlike other energy commodities, domestic spot natural gas prices were "largely unaffected" by international events. Henry Hub spot prices were up a mere 4 cents March 16 versus the previous Wednesday, but by Friday, the hub traded for an average of $3.98/MMBtu -- an increase of 20 cents over the previous Friday.

Natural gas futures rose to a six-week high Friday of $4.16/MMBtu. Analysts have attributed futures price increases to lower rig counts, a report that showed a 56 Bcf loss of gas in storage as of March 11, and the possible pricing in of Japan's higher demand for liquefied natural gas following the shutdown and crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Increased domestic shale-gas production is expected to shield North America from price spikes.

What's ahead: Seattle is expected to be mostly dry the week of March 21, with only light, intermittent showers. Portland may be dry as well, with uncertain conditions forecast for the week ahead. The San Francisco area stays in the 50s starting Monday, with wet weather and heavy rain anticipated. A second storm is possible Wednesday or Friday. The greater Los Angeles area should have heavy rain and mountain showers starting late Sunday night, with temperatures below seasonal norms expected throughout the week [Linda Dailey Paulson].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: March 14 - 18, 2011
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 18.60-255.42 8.34-39.91
Mid-Columbia 15-30.25 9.50-27.75
COB 23-30 13-28
NP 15* 31-33 n/a-n/a
SP 15* 30.50-33 16.25-26.25
Palo Verde 27-32.50 15-24.50

* 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.

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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