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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
April 18, 2008
Peak Prices Drop as Colder Weather Returns; Nighttime Values Rise

Power prices went on spring break this week on the back of flat natural gas prices and moderate demand. Peak prices ended a few cents to $2/MWh lower on Friday. Nighttime prices, however, rose uniformly, adding from a few cents to $4/MWh, as colder weather moved in.

The California grid saw peak power demand slip from a Monday high of 31,300 MW to below 30,000 MW on Friday. Electricity use spiked on Thursday to 30,800 MW as a nuclear power plant went off line.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station had several scheduled maintenance outages this week. The plant, located south of Los Angeles, reduced power the previous weekend at its 1,070 MW second unit. By Thursday, the plant's third unit, rated at 1,110 MW, was shuttered for scheduled maintenance and won't return to full power until May 24.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, was back at full operating capacity on Thursday after a refueling outage. The plant's second unit has a power rating of 1,188 MW.

Wholesale electricity prices dropped fast on Wednesday, losing up to $7/MWh, but all the major Western power hubs staged rebounds between $1 and $6/MWh by Thursday. The Pacific Northwest saw the strongest gains as it was peppered with late-winter rain and snow. In Seattle and Portland, temperatures slipped Friday into the high 40s and are expected to remain cold through the weekend, according to AccuWeather. Cooler weather returns to California this weekend as well, with temperatures dipping into the 60s in Los Angeles and the 50s in San Francisco. Phoenix, however, will enjoy this weekend sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s.

At the California-Oregon border, average peak power prices fell from $94.71/MWh Monday to $93.27 on Friday. After sliding for much of the week, nighttime deliveries reversed on Thursday and ended the week at an average of $81.99/MWh, up 53 cents.

The Mid-Columbia hub saw peak values display the same pattern, inching down from Monday's $92.43 average to close Friday at around $92.40/MWh. Nighttime values ended the week about $6 higher to an average of $87.78/MWh.

Daytime values at North of Path 15 dropped a little over $1 to an average of $95.32/MWh. Nighttime trades rose $3 to $78.39/MWh.

South of Path 15 average peak prices gave back nearly $2 to close out the week at $95.65/MWh, while off-peak prices staged a $3 rise to $78.88 on Friday.

Palo Verde daytime power finished out the week at an average of $89.49/MWh, down 6 cents from Monday. Nighttime trades climbed from Monday's average of $67.92 to $71.54/MWh [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Prices Buck Rise in Crude Oil, Remain Flat

A weak dollar teamed with intense investor speculation in the energy sector to prop up natural gas and oil prices in recent weeks. Lower liquefied natural gas imports and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico have also contributed to higher prices.

Meanwhile, according to Enerfax, drilling at the Independence Hub in the Gulf of Mexico has been curtailed until a leak in one of the pipelines is fixed, which should take one to four weeks. And LNG cargoes are being diverted to Europe and Asia, where customers are willing to pay more.

But even under such pressure -- and with crude oil reaching yet another record this week, exceeding $116 a barrel -- natural gas prices remained flat this week, finishing in the $9 to $10/MMBtu range.

Gas values are typically lower as temperatures rise and demand for heating cools. This "shoulder season" is when utilities and other industrial users start stockpiling supplies for the summer.

For the first time this winter, natural gas stockpiles increased even though the weather was colder than average. Supplies rose by 27 Bcf last week to 1.261 Tcf, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. This leaves storage at about the same level as the five-year average and 19 percent below the same level last year.

In the West, supplies inched up by 3 Bcf to 176 Bcf last week, leaving stockpiles 29 percent below last year and 15 percent less than the five-year average [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: April 14 - 18, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 55.06 - 414.54 22.06 - 400.22
Mid-Columbia 81 - 98 69.50 - 89.75
COB 85.50 - 96 69 - 85
NP 15 88.50 - 99.50 65.25 - 81
SP 15 87 - 102 65 - 81.25
Palo Verde 81 - 98 62 - 75.75

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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