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Western Price Survey / Archives

May 14, 1999
The Rise and Fall of Power Prices Keeps Traders on Their Toes

Electric power prices on the open market spent the first part of the week heading up, then slipped just a little in time for weekend deliveries. While the marketplace was relatively uneventful, continued cold weather in the Pacific Northwest managed to bolster prices up to the 30 mills/KWh level again this week.

With Bonneville Power Administration out in the field as a buyer rather than a seller, Mid-Columbia prices hiked to 30 mills/KWh even before a Centralia outage put Puget Energy in the market as well. As a result Mid-C kept its high level even though other hubs retreated in price for Friday/Saturday deliveries.

California/Oregon Border was a step below Mid-C at 29 mills to 29.5 mills/KWh and Palo Verde narrowed to 28 mills/KWh by Thursday trades.

Off-peak power showed the biggest variety of pricing. Some Northern California non-firm went for 15 mills, but then was turned around at 18 mills as firm power with the backing of some hydro capacity. In the Southwest, overnight energy dropped to 14.5 mills to 15 mills/KWh.

The California Power Exchange seemed to be on a steady climb, only to fall back on Friday's preschedules. The daytime average rose to 31.6 mills during Wednesday's bidding, with select peak hours reaching up to 35 mills/KWh, then things settled down to 29.3 mills/KWh. The off- peak hours clocked in the 15.3 mills to 18.7 mills range, with Friday schedules centering at 16.7 mills/KWh.

The region's nuclear capacity neared normal with the return to service this week of San Onofre No. 3 following a refueling outage. The unit climbed slowly towards full output, pausing midweek at 85 percent to adjust a turbine stop valve. Late on Thursday night, the facility tripped offline after loss of feedwater pumps during maintenance. The cause was unknown and remains under investigation, SoCal Edison told the NRC Friday.

The market still is puzzled by the lack of Northwest hydroelectric power, and Northwesterners faced yet another round of winter-like weather as late snow falls were reported in mountain areas and overnight temperatures went below freezing in the Northwest interior early in the week.

"I don't see anything changing until the snow melts," said one utility trader [Arthur O'Donnell].

Natural Gas Continues the Spring Roller Coaster Ride

Natural gas prices at most hubs drove steadily downward this week, except for Alberta and Northern California prices-driven largely by unusually cold weather in the Pacific Northwest. The San Francisco CityGate earned the distinction of having the highest gas prices in the nation this week, upwards of $2.48/MMBtu while most other hubs rose and fell along with the NYMEX screen. American Gas Association storage injection reports were interpreted as bullish by traders, eroding prices midweek.

Southwestern prices were calm compared to where they have been in recent weeks, with the San Juan Basin dropping to near $2.00/MMBtu by the end of the week and Permian Basin running between $2.08 and $2.10/MMBtu.

The Southern California Border was higher at $2.22/MMBtu after ranging between $2.20 and $2.25.

The Alberta price offered the most dynamic during the week. After starting off at about $(C)2.71/Gigajoule, Alberta index fell to $2.61, then rose again to $2.70 Gj on Thursday. By the end of the week, the Alberta index sat at $2.68 [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of May 10-14, 1999
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 30-85 mills/KWh 20.5-31 mills/KWh
California PX (WAC) 27.6-31.6 mills 15.3-18.7 mills
Mid-Columbia 26.5-30 16-18
COB 26-30 15-18
Palo Verde 26.25-29.5 14.5-15

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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