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Western Price Survey / Archives

April 27, 2001
Midweek Crisis Eases, but Nuke Outages Loom over Market

This week it was an early burst of hot weather over the California desert that sent the state into Stage Two alerts on Tuesday and Wednesday-compounded by the usual heavy load of resource outages and import constraints. The California Independent System Operator had to scratch out new demand projections each day as consumers turned on their air conditioners early. The peak for the week turned out to be 31,430 MW Wednesday-just as Cal-ISO moved into its second consecutive Stage Two. Concurrently, the Four Corners No. 4 unit tripped, causing a frequency dip that was felt throughout the grid.

Contributing to the emergency Tuesday was the unexpected loss of several generation plants, including Ormand Beach No. 1 (715 MW) and Moss Landing No. 7 (495 MW), while Moss No. 6 dropped another 135 MW. Though media reports declared a trip at Mohave No. 1 as a triggering factor Tuesday, the unit did not show up on Cal-ISO's outage list.

Wednesday's emergency also was set up with the heat moving into Northern California and the Northwest, sapping what little hydroelectricity was heading across the intertie. In the Southwest, San Juan No. 1 experienced a brief outage of 325 MW.

Thursday saw no major aberrations, and Cal-ISO stayed in "warning" mode. There are still more than 13,000 MW of unit outages on a daily basis, however, meaning the grid operator is never far from trouble.

With two major nuclear facilities already out of commission, traders are wary of the upcoming Diablo Canyon refueling, which will begin a little early on April 29. Owner Pacific Gas & Electric figured it would be a good time to do some repair work, but the unforgiving market seems to be saying there is no good time for an 1,050 MW unit to be off line.

Power prices rose on the tides of increased demand, but settled a little on Thursday. Mid-Columbia peak went for 335 mills/KWh heading into the weekend, California/Oregon Border trading was light but prices were seen at 331 mills/KWh. Both hubs were about 210 mills/KWh for off peak power.

NP15 centered at 300 mills peak and in the 178 mills to 185 mills/KWh range for overnights. SP15 varied between 295 mills and 305 mills in the day and rose to 120 mills to 130 mills/KWh at night.

Palo Verde dropped to the 305 mills/KWh vicinity after having reach 347 mills/KWh midweek. Off-peak was still low in the 90 mills to 100 mills/KWh.

The Alberta Power Pool experience a big jump in price Thursday to 879 mills/KWh, followed by a plunge in the next hour to 112 mills/KWh. This kind of volatility used to be routine, but lately the pool had smoothed out operations with the use of reserve generation. Off-peak power was steady in the 75 mills to 78 mills/KWh range all week [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Presents a Mixed Bag

The national trend of a deep slide in natural gas prices was mostly reflected in the Southwestern basins this week, although prices throughout the West also tumbled.

The prescheduling of generation demand took much of the "oomph" out of the market and moderate temperatures meant their was not much call for either heating or cooling.

The Permian Basin price fell from $5.33/MMBtu at the start of the week to just above the $5/MMBtu perch. San Juan took a steep slide from $4.94 to $4.29/MMBtu.

The SoCal Border eroded from $12.85 midweek to $12.50/MMBtu. Traders noted the increasing disparity between the SoCal Topock price and the PG&E Topock price, which is expected to grow even wider when full capacity is restored to Line 300 this weekend. The difference represents the fact that Southern California has had much greater demand while Line 300 going north is frequently underutilized.

Malin bounced around in a range of $10.60 to $11/MMBtu while the SF CityGate traded about $1 higher.

The Alberta hub has been seeing much reduced activity, with the result this week a lowered price. After starting out at $(C)7.68/Gigajoule, the AECO index settled at $7.25/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of April 23-27, 2001
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 83-879 75-78
Mid-Columbia 265-340 207-215
COB 255-345 180-215
NP 15 230-300 175-190
SP 15 195-320 106-130
Palo Verde 175-347 90-110

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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