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Western Price Survey / Archives

March 30, 2001
Power Markets on the Rebound

The week began with what can only be considered a free-fall in prices as moderate weather, precipitation in the Northwest and a return to service at several large generation units eased last week's unsteady supply/demand balance. Prescheduled prices for Monday had been over 325 mills/KWh at Mid-Columbia and near 300 mills/KWh at Palo Verde, but they dropped precipitously to the 155 mills to 165 mills/KWh level in the Northwest and just 95 mills to 120 mills at Palo Verde. " Everyone has lots of everything now," one trader said.

That did not last long, and back-to-back Stage Two emergencies called by the California Independent System Operator on Tuesday and Wednesday caused prices to reverse course and begin climbing again.

The reasons given for escalating into immediate Stage Two status were familiar. On Tuesday, Cal-ISO cited the loss of about 1,100 MW of import power from the Northwest on short notice as water managers revised their assessment of how much surplus they had and stopped selling southward. Wednesday, an electrical cable fire at the Mohave coal plant in Nevada caused loss of nearly 800 MW. A fire last week at Mohave was the trigger for California's Stage Three outages as both units were thrown off line .

Things were not quite so bad this week, although more than 13,000 MW of in-state generation was still out for maintenance Thursday, and few of the recalcitrant qualifying facilities appear to have resumed operations even though they anticipate some payment relief as a result of electric rate increases adopted by California on Tuesday.

Cal-ISO revealed that even during the Stage Three outages last week, it was only able to muster 188 MW of voluntary load-shedding on Monday and 131 MW on Tuesday. The trend continued with the latest incident, with just 128 MW worth of customers agreeing to cut power on March 27.

By the end of the week prices were still moving upward but uncertain about future trends. Mid-Columbia was about 200 mills/KWh. The California/Oregon Border and NP15 prices were in a tight range of 175 mills to 185 mills/KWh. Off-peak fell to 90 to 95 mills/KWh in California.SP15 was 180 mills to 185 mills/KWh daytime and 110 mills for overnights.

Palo Verde was on the rise at 135 mills to 160 mills/KWh peak and jumped from 70 mills/KWh to 100 mills/KWh off-peak [Arthur O'Donnell].

Spring Injections Start Early

The good news for gas markets this week was that conditions allowed for continued early storage injections a week ahead of the traditional storage season. While the disparity between basin and border prices continues to be a problem, general trends were seen as positive for easing pressures on supplies.

Prices tended to move higher, but from a lower starting point than in recent weeks. The biggest change was at the Southern California Border, were prices started the week at slightly above $10.00/MMBtu but rose quickly to the $13.75/MMBtu level.

Basin prices saw an increasing spread as San Juan moved in the $4.17 to $4.58 range, but Permian took to a higher road at $5.02 to $5.38/MMBtu.

The same was true for border and citygate prices in Northern California. Malin rose from a low $6/MMBtu to $7.50/MMBtu Thursday, but the San Francisco CityGate price was about $3/MMBtu higher.

Alberta ranged widely, from $(C)7.10/Gigajoule to start the week, up to $8.02/Gj, finally settling at around $7.58/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of March 26-30, 2001
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 80-98 35.5-66
Mid-Columbia 155-200 125-140
COB 155-185 90-135
NP 15 130-180 90-120
SP 15 110-165 85-110
Palo Verde 110-160 70-100

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.


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Contact Shauna O'Donnell, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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