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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
July 8, 2011
Sierra Runoff Brings Plentiful Hydro

California's snowpack should continue supplying the region with ample hydropower well into August, suppressing power prices.

Although not quite on a par with the 1983 season, this year is on track to have the largest late runoff since 2006, said Maury Roos, a hydrologist with the California Department of Water Resources.

Sierra Nevada snowpack was 170 percent of normal in April and 185 percent of normal in May. Although the majority of snow has melted, an estimated 7 percent of the April snowpack still remains.

The San Joaquin River has been flowing at around 14,000 cubic feet per second recently, compared to typical early July flows from 3,000 to 5,000 cfs, Roos said. Most reservoirs in the southern Sierra are close to if not currently full.

According to Pacific Gas & Electric, electrical power yield from its dams is 21 percent above average. Increased hydro output is expected to last at least through August.

Meanwhile, the Bonneville Power Administration's periodic curtailment of non-hydro generation under its "environmental redispatch" initiative appears to be tailing off. The agency has not posted data since July 5. At that time, 92,599 MWh of non-hydro generation had been cut since May 18.

Western peak-power prices dropped significantly from July 1 to July 8, with losses of between $7.70 and $16.50. Spot prices for daytime power the previous week hit or neared $60/MWh on hot weather, but prices have since dropped as temperatures in much of the West returned to seasonal norms.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid was recorded July 6 when use reached 43,634 MW. Future demand is not expected to exceed 36,100 MW in the week ahead, according to the system operator.

In stark contrast, nighttime average prices for Western hubs jumped between $2.30 and almost $15.45 in Friday-to-Friday trading. Palo Verde posted the highest average price for off-peak power among Western hubs at more than $35/MWh (see chart).

Natural gas values in the West have been declining. From July 1 to July 8, Southern California Border and PG&E CityGate gas dropped 16 cents, closing at $4.24/MMBtu and $4.44/MMBtu, respectively. Malin gas values eroded 9 cents to close at $4.06.

Working natural gas in storage rose to 2.527 Tcf by Friday, July 1, after a 95 Bcf net injection, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Current stores are now 224 Bcf below last year's storage amount.

What's ahead: Cooler-than-normal temperatures are expected in Seattle through at least Thursday, with possible showers starting Tuesday. Those same showers are expected in Portland by Thursday. Cooler weather is also on tap for Northern California, which should have inland temperatures between 65 and 75 °F with substantial cloud cover along the coast.

That same system cools Southern California to seasonal norms, but the Antelope Valley may reach the 90s by midweek. Likewise, Palo Verde temperatures should dip below seasonal norms starting Tuesday [Linda Dailey Paulson].


Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: July 4 - 8, 2011
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 12.02-999.99 11.89-67.16
Mid-Columbia 23-42 (-)2-11.50
COB 32.50-54 2-12
NP 15* 37.50-48 17-20
SP 15* 39-51 20-28.75
Palo Verde 43-54 19-38

* Prices represent both day-ahead locational marginal prices (financial swaps, or EZ Gen DA LMPs) and quasi-swap prices (EZ Gen) as reported by ICE.

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.


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