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Western Price Survey / Archives

May 25, 2001
Prices Take Memorial Day Bungee Jump

Anyone looking for solid trends in the Western power market is sure to be bewildered by the increasingly volatile prices that tend to move up or down by hundreds of points in a single day. Beginning Wednesday, that movement was in a southbound direction, as lack of system stress and accelerated trading for the three-day weekend cut prices in half compared to earlier trades.

Prices began the week at 345 mills/KWh at northern locations and 330 mills/KWh in the Southwest and rose well above 400 midweek, but by the end of trading Thursday, price points were just a fraction of those levels. The California/Oregon Border was reported in the 105 mills to 113 mills/KWh range for flat power across the Sunday/Monday holiday. Palo Verde was reported even lower at 79 mills/KWh for 24-hour blocks during the low-load period. NP15 sat at 125 mills and SP15 was down below 100 mills/KWh.

The remarkable drop came as California managed to avoid any power emergencies even though high temperatures blanketed the state.

Though daytime temperatures were especially high in Northern California and the Desert Southwest, things cooled off considerably at night, preventing the extreme loads that accompany extended hot weather. A cooling trend hit Southern California Thursday, allowing grid operators to trim peak load estimates by 2,000 MW.

In terms of demand, Wednesday saw the California Independent System Operator hit 36,050 MW without breaking a sweat. The California Department of Water Resources took credit for averting the need for any Stage One alert earlier in the week because it had prescheduled over 220 GWh of power for Monday at relatively low prices that prevailed heading into the last weekend. DWR deputy director Ray Hart also credited conservation by state agencies and utility customers for shaving 6 percent off the expected peak. "Today was proof that conservation is key to avoiding power outages," Hart said on Monday.

Helping the situation is a slow but steady return to service of power plants out for repairs. Cal-ISO reported a little over 10,200 MW off line this week-less each day.

Although the Palo Verde No. 3 tripped off line over last weekend while operators were taking it down for minor repairs, the outage did not last too long and the nuclear facility was back to near-full output Wednesday. Looking ahead, Pacific Gas & Electric moved the Diablo Canyon No. 2 units into hot standby, signaling that the nuke is completed refueling and may soon return to service as planned in early June [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Prices Edge Up, Except at Border

Even though electric demand was falling off in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, natural gas prices took a short hop late in the week. The countertrend at the Southern California Border saw delivery prices fall by more than $1.25/MMBtu Thursday.

Basin prices remained relatively low with San Juan moving between $3.24/MMBtu and $3.49/MMBtu. Permian Basin was generally half-a-buck higher as it ranged between $3.86 and $4.05/MMBtu.

Northern California once again saw a price collapse heading into the weekend. Low demand meant that pipelines were full and traders guessed that operational flow orders would try to impose some balance over the weekend. The PG&E CityGate price fell from $9.50 to $7.00/MMBtu and Malin trailed by $0.50/MMBtu.

In Alberta, the hub index price bumped up by $0.20/Gigajoule late in the week, coming in at $5.66/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of May 21-25, 2001
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 75-428 47-61
Mid-Columbia 105-425 100-220
COB 105-450 100-230
NP 15 125-435 100-225
SP 15 100-400 75-130
Palo Verde 79-420 50-115

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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