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Western Price Survey / Archives

July 3, 2003
Few Sparks Fly During Holiday-Shortened Trade Week

Poor Columbia. Columbia Generating Station, that is, the nuclear unit in Washington that has been clawing its way back on line for the better part of two weeks while performing a kind of one-step-forward, two- steps-back start up. After reaching 65 percent of its total 1,200 MW output on Monday, the plant had to be shut down on Tuesday. According to Energy Northwest spokesperson Laura Dovey, the unit was having a wiring problem in its main transformer. By Wednesday, the issue was confirmed to be a wearing down of the sheathing for some wires and plant operators were replacing them. Dovey said Columbia moved into ramp-up mode on Wednesday morning while the repairs were occurring and expected the station to be connected to the grid within 48 hours. On Thursday morning the Nuclear Regulatory Commission listed the plant at 4 percent output.

In other nuclear plant news, Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon No. 1 was back to full power on Wednesday after a planned curtailment of about 50 percent of the unit's 1,110 MW output during the past week. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Units No. 2 and 3 kept to full output this week and Palo Verde's three units stayed at their customary 98 percent.

Trading was truncated this week as suppliers prepared for the Friday, Fourth of July holiday. Trading on Wednesday was for Friday and Saturday delivery; both are expected to be low-demand days. Still the weather may have some influence on whether that holds true.

"We might see some real-time volatility," commented one trader, adding that although things were pretty quiet on the trading front, everyone is sort of waiting to see "what the hell's going to happen over the weekend."

Forecasted load in California Independent System Operator territory has steadily increased throughout the week, with Thursday's demand estimated at 38,837 MW. Temperatures throughout the West have been within the normal seasonal range the past few days but are expected to rise for the holiday weekend.

Prices at Western hubs did not demonstrate much concern with either supply availability or demand increase this week. Aside from a bit of oscillation from day to day, power prices did not tell much of a story this week. At Palo Verde, peak power traded for anywhere between 52 mills and 63 mills/KWh. At the other end of the region, Mid-C power was moving for between 37 mills and 46.95 mills/KWh for peak delivery.

Peak power trading at SP15 moved on Monday at between 51.50 mills and 59 mills/KWh. By Wednesday, the price had faded a bit, ranging between 49.50 and 57.25 mills. NP15 prices trailed behind, with trading settling at the 44.75 mills to 51 mills/KWh by midweek.

One event that made it onto the Western Electricity Coordinating Council's system status report, described as a "catastrophic failure," occurred on Tuesday. A 230 KV capacitor breaker at the Pinnacle Peak East Substation in Arizona failed at about 3:15 pm, forcing the shedding of 1,000 MW of firm load within Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project territory. Still, representatives from both companies downplayed the severity of the event. According to SRP spokesperson Scott Harelson, there were "lots of flickers" in the eastern half of the provider's territory and 12,000 customers lost power but were restored within minutes. About 750 APS customers were without power for an hour in Phoenix while thousands more experienced brief disturbances in their power supply. There appeared to be no long-lasting effects from the breaker's failure and repairs have been completed [Shauna O'Donnell].

Gas Prices Blasť about Bill

Tropical storm Bill moved through the Gulf Coast in the early part of the week, and while Entergy customers in Louisiana felt its effect, Bill put little pressure on natural gas prices. The storm was downgraded to a depression on Tuesday.

Prices at Western hubs ticked downward from levels recorded last week — no doubt deflating in anticipation of the long weekend ahead. At Permian, spot trades were in the $4.80 to $5.17/MMBtu range this week, while last week's trades topped out at $5.90/MMBtu. San Juan gas prices hovered at the lower end of Western trades, opening the week as low as $4.39/MMBtu.

Last weekend PG&E's California Gas Transmission called yet another operational flow order but none during the week. The pipeline's Web site did note that a gear box failure at the Los Medanos underground storage field would limit total system injection capacity to 260 MMcfd through July 4.

In other price reporting news, Platts officially implemented its new reporting standards on July 1. These standards dictate that in order to be utilized, data must be compiled or reviewed by a noncommercial segment of a company, contain transaction-level detail and come from entities with which Platts has signed a formal agreement [S. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of June 30-July 3, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.34-493.50 10.34-124.33
Mid-Columbia 37-46.95 30-41
COB 40-52 N/A
NP 15 44.75-56.50 33.25-42.50
SP 15 49.50-57.25 30-43
Palo Verde 47.50-63 31.25-42

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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