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Western Price Survey / Archives

April 14, 2000
Prices Fall; It Must be Spring

After three days of price stagnancy caused by prescheduling so traders and operators could attend a meeting in Seattle, power prices throughout the West dropped in the face of increased hydroelectric generation on the Columbia River system and a generally serene market profile.

As Northwest reservoir operators released more water to accommodate fish spawning down river, two other indicators of spring were " load-following" operations at the WNP-2 nuclear plant in Washington and off-peak energy prices approaching single digits on the California Power Exchange. WNP-2 moved between 60 percent to 80 percent of its 1100 MW capacity, dropping again to the lower level Thursday.

On the surface, market prices appeared stable Monday through Thursday because most trades had been done as a three-day block. Many data sources simply reposted the same prices day after day to reflect the low market activity, and the CalPX daytime clearing price, for instance, barely budged from the 31 mills to 32 mills/KWh range all week.

Traders who remained on the job, however, noted significant shifts in off-peak prices as excess hydro generation pushed its way into the queue. The CalPX overnight price slipped from 20.2 mills on Monday to the 17 mills vicinity, with some individual off-peak hours clearing at just 10 mills/KWh.

The Bonneville Power Administration's daily surplus offering had been at 19.5 mills for Northwest deliveries and 20 mills/KWh for California/Oregon Border sales, but fell to 16.5 mills and 17.5 mills for the weekend.

Even lower levels were seen in prescheduled markets when traders finally returned to work Thursday. COB eased to 27 mills for peak power and 16 mills/KWh off-peak for Friday/Saturday packages, but Mid- Columbia plummeted to 23 mills peak and 12.5 mills/KWh off-peak.

The region has not yet hit "minimum load" conditions frequently seen in April, but if the CalPX demand drops below 15 GWh in slack hours, clearing prices could hit zero again this year.

With BPA announcing on Thursday that it was revising hydro operations to increase fish survival, hydro spill regime changes were expected immediately at four major dams: Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day and Lower Monumental. Some spill levels will be increased, while others limited. The impacts on hydro-electric production remain to be seen, but overall, parties anticipate more excess power to flow with the waters. Last week marked increased flows at upper system dams, including Ice harbor on the Snake River, Lower Granite and Little Goose.

There were some pricing aberrations in real-time power markets midweek. Despite any significant transmission system constraints, unplanned generation outages or other system disturbances, prices on the California Independent System Operator's energy imbalance market popped above 120 mills/KWh for some hours in some zones, particularly on the transmission path between Mead and Southern California and SP 15. Without any real cause for the spikes, some traders chalked it up to market opportunism.

Aside from WNP-2 varying its output, there was little to report on the generation side that was not already factored into market prices. Palo Verde No. 3 remains out for refueling and unit No. 1 reported a slight decrease in output on Thursday morning to 99 percent of output but no reason was listed [Arthur O'Donnell].

Quiet Week for Gas as Traders Converge in Denver

While many Western electricity schedulers were in Seattle, gas traders tended to congregate in Denver for the annual GasMart conference. As a result, little actual trading was done this week and prices tended to stabilize. There was some drift upward late in the week, based primarily on national benchmarks, but little excitement.

The Southern California Border price mainly varied between $3.01 and $3.03, but some reported sales at up to $3.06/MMBtu on Thursday. Permian Basin moved up to $2.85/MMBtu from the $2.77/MMBtu mark and San Juan followed at about $2.80/MMBtu.

In Northern California, the San Francisco CityGate price was a relative bargain at around $3.13/MMBtu, at least compared to Alberta supplies. The AECO index reached as high as $(c)3.87/Gigajoule at the end of the week [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of April 10-14, 2000
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 42-500 24-42.5
California PX (WAC) 31.1-32.8 17.3-20.2
Mid-Columbia 23-28.5 12.5-17
COB 27-32.5 16-23
Palo Verde 32.5-37.5 20-21

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

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