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Western Price Survey / Archives

April 18, 2003
Spot Trades Follow the Water

As the taxman cameth for multitudes of Americans this week, so arrived hydroelectric supplies in Western power markets. Spot prices obligingly submitted before the advancing waters, with many hubs slipping into the upper 30 mills/KWh range. Prices at Mid-Columbia and the California-Oregon border ran lower still, with Mid-C peak premiums settling as low as 21 mills/KWh.

"There's lots of water coming down from the Northwest," said one trader. "It helps to fill the void" left by offline generators, which are still warming up for the summer peak season.

Hydro facilities on much of the Columbia River are working in high gear. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Grand Coulee Dam pumped out an average 3,019 MW midweek, and the Chief Joseph Dam produced 1,567 MW on Wednesday, its highest output since March 27.

The ample hydro resources took prices lower despite widespread maintenance outages in California. Reports from the state's grid operator showed as much as 19,200 MW offline this week due to both planned and unplanned repairs. "Everyone's doing their springtime maintenance right now," remarked another market player.

Another item of interest among California Independent System Operator grid digests is the state's load shape, which appears to indicate that two periods of peak demand are taking place these days. On Wednesday, load reached 27,377 MW between 10 am and 11 am, with the evening peak projected at about 28,000 MW.

At the Diablo Canyon nuclear complex, unit 2 again began increasing production after correcting some problems on the steam side of the plant. No. 2 has been operating in fits and starts in recent weeks following an extended refueling outage.

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, output at the unit totaled 73 percent of full capacity Friday morning. Plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric said No. 2 should reach full power over the weekend.

The 850 High Desert Power Project showed up on Cal- ISO's list of unexpected outages this week, though the plant has yet to begin commercial operation. According to a spokesperson for project owner Constellation Energy, the facility is undergoing testing and is expected to start running in early summer.

Other unscheduled outages that occurred this week included AES' Alamitos 6 unit, with all 485 MW off line; Reliant's Etiwanda No. 4 plant, with all 320 MW curtailed, Calpine's Los Medanos facility, with 451 MW of 561 MW off the grid; and the 260 MW La Paloma No. 3 and 4 units, owned by a subsidiary of PG&E Corp.

Around the West, prices for heavy-load hours burrowed lower throughout the week. At NP15 and SP15, peak prices retreated to about 39 mills, with COB easing to a low of 29 mills/KWh. Peak power at Palo Verde traded for as little as 36 mills/KWh.

Light-load energy in the region clustered around the 26 mills/KWh range late in the week, not counting lower-priced, hydro-rich Mid-Columbia trades.

At Alberta, peak prices hit a one-hour high of 245 mills/KWh [Jason Mihos].

Storage Draw Boosts Gas

Spot gas prices floated higher this week on increased futures prices and an anticipated net withdrawal in stored gas. Prices at many basins pushed into the $5/MMBtu range despite reports of warmer temperatures on the horizon.

The federal government's weekly storage report showed that countrywide gas stocks are down 48 Bcf compared to the previous week and have declined by 883 Bcf since last year at this time. Western gas inventory posted no change from the previous week, holding at 167 Bcf.

Gas traders wrapped up this week's business on Thursday, apparently because of the "Good Friday" holiday being observed by the NYMEX exchange. Curiously, Thursday deals for deliveries to be made Friday through Monday ranged lower, with prices at Western hubs dropping about $0.15 to $0.20/MMBtu.

San Juan prices continued to bounce around, fluttering between $3.89 and $4.90/MMBtu. At the Permian Basin, premiums rose to $5.19. Prices at Topock crested at $5.33, while CityGate prices stretched up to $5.59/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of April 14-18, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 7.86-245 9.61-30.71
Mid-Columbia 21-34 20.25-32
COB 29-39 N/A
NP 15 39-59 26.75-36.5
SP 15 39-55.5 26-36
Palo Verde 36-48.75 24.75-32.75

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


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