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Western Price Survey / Archives

April 25, 2003
Dams Douse Western Markets

Churning waters at several hydro powerhouses in the Northwest gradually relaxed bilateral prices in the West this week. Electric demand has yet to venture much higher, as cooler, drizzly weather throughout the region held potential air-conditioning load in abeyance.

The heightened hydro activity, however, was not the sort of deluge that sweeps prices away. "There just isn't enough water to inundate us with energy," said one trader. "We won't get there unless there's a lot more rain or if some really warm weather melts the snow."

On the Columbia River system, the Grand Coulee Dam pumped out an average of 3,421 MW on Monday and Chief Joseph produced 1,763 MW the same day, the highest output for each dam, respectively, in the past seven weeks. By Thursday, average production ticked down to 3,196 MW at Grand Coulee and 1,726 MW at Chief Joseph.

Production at The Dalles in Oregon pushed up to an average of 808 MW on Wednesday, though the dam is still running well short of its recent high mark of 1,104 MW reached on March 19. Average output at John Day surged to 1,310 MW midweek.

At the Mid-Columbia hub, heavy-load premiums began the week bouncing between about 26 mills and 36 mills/KWh. NP15 and SP15 each hit 50 mills, and Palo Verde reached 46.25 mills/KWh. As the week progressed, prices eased by several mills at most hubs, with Mid-C and the California-Oregon border holding steady in the mid-30 mills and upper-30 mills/KWh ranges, respectively.

Electric demand in California remains sluggish. Daily load reported by the state grid operator stayed at about 28,100 MW through Thursday.

Many generation units are still in thrall to the spring maintenance season. According to California Independent System Operator data, the ranks of unplugged generation units increased from about 17,600 MW on Monday to 19,569 MW on Thursday. Approximately 3,636 MW of capacity was offline unexpectedly late in the week, including Reliant's 320 MW Etiwanda 4 unit and PG&E Generating's La Paloma units 1 and 3, each rated at 260 MW.

AES also took several off its units off line for unscheduled outages, including the 485 MW Alamitos No. 6 plant, the 215 MW Huntington 2 plant and Redondo No. 5, with a capacity of 175 MW. Southern Delta's Pittsburg No. 7 unit curtailed 322 MW of an available 682 MW, and Calpine shut off 311 MW at its 860 MW Delta Energy Center in Contra Costa County.

Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon No. 2 unit ran at 98 percent through Wednesday after undergoing a longer-than-expected fuel outage that finally ended last week. Production at No. 2 boosted to 100 percent on Friday morning.

The West's other nuclear plants are operating at capacity with the exception of Palo Verde No. 3, which is still being refueled.

Alberta real-time prices for peak power crested at the premature hour of 10 am on Monday, pressing up to about 347 mills/KWh. Light-load premiums held between about 9 mills and 15 mills before booming to 160.26 mills/KWh for one early-morning hour on Friday. Demand sank as low as 5,998 MW during some off-peak hours midweek [Jason Mihos].

Inventory Hike Leaves Gas Stock-Still

Daily gas prices this week nearly stopped in their tracks in response to conflicting indicators and reports of an increase in stored supplies. Premiums kept to familiar levels, but movement within price ranges was slight, apparently due to offsetting factors-declining crude oil futures and storage increases balanced against predictions of cooler weather and potential reductions in gas production.

On Friday morning, trades for the weekend through Monday showed prices falling off by about 10 mills/KWh at many hubs.

The Energy Information Administration this week tallied national gas stocks at 684 Bcf, an increase of 61 Bcf over the amount in storage the previous week. Western supplies saw an increase of only 7 Bcf. Overall, inventory continues to run far lower than what was available at this time last year.

Other than San Juan Basin, where prices shuttled between $3.35 and $4.30/MMBtu, most Western hubs found themselves listless. Permian trades ranged from $4.84 to $5.10, and the usually demonstrative CityGate brooded between $5.28 and $5.45/MMBtu.

At the Southern California border, prices puttered between $4.93 and $5.20/MMBtu. Malin gas changed hands for $4.87 to $5.07/MMBtu. At the Alberta hub, prices crept between $4.81 and $4.90/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of April 21-25, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.13-347.02 7.70-160.02
Mid-Columbia 26.5-38.25 30.5-36
COB 37.25-42 32.5-34
NP 15 40-50.5 31.5-37.5
SP 15 41-50 31.75-39.5
Palo Verde 36.5-46.25 28-37

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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