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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
March 29, 2013
California Snowmelt Starts, but More Storms in the Works

Snowmelt has begun in California, the state's Department of Water Resources noted in a March 26 report. But DWR said conditions remain dry despite some recent precipitation. A series of storms is forecast to come ashore starting April 4, which the agency says could be "slightly stronger" than the storms expected Easter weekend. At present, the snow-water equivalent in the state is about 51 percent of the April 1 average, DWR reported.

Meanwhile, both natural gas and power prices in the West moved lower compared to last week. Markets closed March 29 in observance of Good Friday.

Working gas in storage reached 1,781 Bcf as of Friday, March 22, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 95 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 26.5 percent less than a year ago and 3.5 percent above the five-year average.

Henry Hub natural gas values rose 2 cents since last Friday, trading March 28 at $4.03/MMBtu. Western prices, however, trended down, with Malin gas dropping 13 cents to $3.91 and PG&E CityGate down 8 cents to $4.19/MMBtu at the close of trading.

In a March 26 report, the EIA noted that the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station outage has pressured power prices at South of Path 15.

"Historically, wholesale power prices for Northern and Southern California tracked closely with one another," the report stated. "However, after the shutdown of SONGS in early 2012, the relatively inexpensive nuclear generation produced by SONGS had to be replaced with power from more expensive sources. Consequently, since April 2012 Southern California power prices have persistently exceeded Northern California prices, with the spread averaging $4.15/MWh, or 12% of the Northern California price."

SP15 dropped $5 since last Friday to finish March 28 at $50.95/MWh. Here's how average peak prices at other Western hubs fared since last Friday:

  • Mid-Columbia: Dropped $8.65 to $29.95/MWh.
  • California-Oregon Border: Lost $4.20 to $35.35/MWh.
  • North of Path 15: Down $3 to $43/MWh.
  • Palo Verde: Up 70 cents to $37/MWh.

Average off-peak power prices in the West declined between $2.45 (Palo Verde) and $10.30 (Mid-C) over the trading period. Prices March 28 ranged from $27.45/MWh at Mid-C to $38.75/MWh at SP15.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 28,696 MW Wednesday, March 27, which should be the week's high, according to the grid operator. Northwest Power Pool peak demand reached 52,802 MW Monday.

Unit No. 2 of the Diablo Canyon power plant began returning to service March 23 after being shut down starting Feb. 3 for refueling and maintenance. It started operating at full capacity March 28, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported.

What's ahead: The National Weather Service expects California will have an increased probability of both above-normal precipitation and temperatures April 3 through April 11 [].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: March 25 - 29, 2013
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.61-828.65 18.44-148.43
Mid-Columbia 28-44 26.50-38.50
COB 33-44.50 30-38.75
NP 15* 43-48.25 35.50-39
SP 15* 48-55.50 38-42
Palo Verde 35.75-37.25 27-32.50

* 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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