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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
March 23, 2012
Cal-ISO Adjusts Summer Outlook

Cal-ISO this week updated its summer grid forecast, which includes a mitigation plan should both units of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remain off line this summer.

At peak capacity, each San Onofre unit supplies 1,100 MW, but the units have been off line longer than expected due to steam-generator tube problems. Cal-ISO says it is working with utilities on a summer mitigation plan to prevent problems in San Diego and portions of the Los Angeles Basin, which have tight reserve margins.

The agency states that it can use roughly 2,296 MW of demand response and interruptible load programs in periods of grid stress. It estimates 50,341 MW of in-state power-plant generation will be available this summer, an estimate that assumes both San Onofre units return to operation. Some 8,600 MW to 11,400 MW of power in high peak-demand periods is available to import, the grid operator projects.

Other than using conservation and demand response to deal with the potential loss of San Onofre this summer, one solution could be returning to service two Huntington Beach power plant units that have been designated for retirement, Cal-ISO said.

Cal-ISO expects summer peak demand of 46,352 MW, which is 923 MW more than the actual peak of 45,429 MW recorded last summer. The estimates are based on expectations of a conservative economic recovery.

Working gas in storage reached 2,380 Bcf as of Friday, March 16, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net increase of 11 Bcf from the previous week. Current storage levels are now 47.5 percent higher than a year ago and 54 percent above the five-year average.

The Henry Hub spot average price gained 6 cents over the March 16 to March 23 trading period, to $2.07/MMBtu. In the West, Malin spot natural gas lost 2 cents, ending at $2.08/MMBtu, while Southern California Border gas prices gained 6 cents to $2.19/MMBtu.

Western electricity prices mostly fell, losing between two and three dollars in Friday-to-Friday trading. South of Path 15 was the only hub to gain value, up about $1.75/MWh to an average of $26.20/MWh.

Northwest nighttime prices dropped as well, the result of generous hydro generation. Bonneville Power Administration hydro generation peaked at nearly 15,000 MW March 21.

Consequently, nighttime power in the West traded in a range of roughly $8.45 to $18.15/MWh today. California-Oregon Border lost $8.35/MWh compared to last Wednesday (see table); Mid-Columbia posted the lowest price for Western off-peak power at $8.45/MWh.

Peak use on the Cal-ISO grid reached the week's high of 28,664 MW Monday evening. The next peak in use should occur Monday, March 26, when demand is expected to reach 28,153 MW. Power demand in the Northwest Power Pool reached 55,392 MW March 19.

What's ahead: Rain is likely for both Seattle and Portland Monday, March 26, continuing through at least Thursday. Showers may linger in the San Francisco area Monday, with a possibility of rain through Thursday. Southern California should be sunny starting Monday and lasting through the week with a high of 66 °F Thursday, March 29 [Linda Dailey Paulson].


Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: March 19 - 23, 2012
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 14.70-309.39 12.12-85.91
Mid-Columbia 16-20.25 6-17.25
COB 20-23.25 10.25-18
NP 15* 21-25.50 15-19.25
SP 15* 24-26.75 15.50-19.25
Palo Verde 20.50-24.50 15.65-19

* 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.


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