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Western Price Survey / Archives

July 11, 2003
Power Prices Beat the Heat

With sun-induced steam rising from animate and inanimate objects alike around the West this week, spot electric prices stayed relatively cool under the collar. Premiums at most hubs peaked on Tuesday, when next-day weather forecasts predicted highs of 100-plus degrees in some parts of California and the Southwest. News that Phoenix would reach 114 degrees midweek pushed heavy-load prices at Palo Verde to 69.25 mills/KWh for energy delivered on Wednesday.

Public Service Company of New Mexico reported a new record for electric demand among its customers. Scorching weather on Wednesday produced loads of 1,550 MW, nearly 100 MW more than PNM's previous high-power mark. Nevada Power also surpassed its highest system peak on record. On July 10, peak load reached 4,772 MW, a shade higher than the 4,617 MW reached almost exactly a year ago.

Otherwise, traders found the market to be mostly mum. "Even with temperatures warming, it's fairly quiet," said one player. "Energy has been accessible even in real time, and loads haven't been screaming."

Demand on the California Independent System Operator grid held in the mid-35,000 MW range early in the week before swelling to 39,533 MW on Thursday afternoon. Cal-ISO predicted a high of 39,501 MW for Friday.

The system operator reported only a handful of unplanned generation outages this week. Unscheduled shutdowns amounted to about 1,250 MW of lost capacity midweek and 1,778 MW the following morning. PG&E Generating's 234 MW La Paloma 2 unit was off line all week, and No. 3 (231 MW) curtailed all power Thursday. Mirant's 317 MW Pittsburg No. 6 plant clicked off the same day.

Also sitting out the market this week was Reliant Energy's Mandalay No. 3 plant, rated at 120 MW. The 335 MW El Segundo 3 unit operated at 75 percent, and Reliant's 245 MW Coolwater plant resumed production late in the week after running at half power on Tuesday.

In the Northwest, output at the 1,200 MW Columbia Generating Station increased steadily most of the week. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission pegged Columbia's production at 72 percent Monday morning and raised that figure to 78 percent on Wednesday. Output then dropped to 73 percent Friday morning. Plant owner Energy Northwest is still waiting on a condensate booster pump motor to be installed before taking Columbia to full power.

Most prices for peak energy played to geography in the West. The farther south the hub, the higher the premiums ranged. Mid-Columbia contented itself with the mid-40 mills range, and California-Oregon border prices rode about 3 to 5 mills/KWh higher. Power at NP 15 traded for as much as 67 mills, and Palo Verde supplies drew between 58 mills and 69.25 mills/KWh.

During Friday trades for Sunday-Monday deliveries, light-load prices jumped up by approximately 5 mills to 7 mills/KWh.

An oil-tank fire at Duke Energy's Moss Landing power plant near Monterey appeared to have little effect on grid activity. An unused storage tank, undergoing demolition as part of an upgrade project at the plant, ignited on Tuesday and burned into the next morning. The blaze did not interrupt the operation of the 2,538 MW generation unit or harm any people, Duke reported.

At the Alberta hub in Canada, real-time prices showed their modest side, topping out at about 111 mills during times of peak demand and rising to 60 mills/KWh for light-load hours [Jason Mihos].

Weather, Storage Keep Gas Guessing

Intrigued by news of tropical storm Claudette in the Caribbean and predictions of warmer than normal temperatures in the US, natural gas prices crept up this week. An increase in crude oil futures helped the market along-until Thursday, when newly released national gas storage figures appeared to take prices down a peg.

The Energy Information Administration reported a storage injection of 111 Bcf for the previous week, with Western stocks increasing by about 9 Bcf. Nationwide, gas inventory is still 580 Bcf lower than it was at this time last year.

Permian Basin prices commanded the highest premium in Western trades this week, stretching from $4.90 to as high as $5.47/MMBtu. Topock trades netted a top price of $5.45, and prices at Pacific Gas & Electric's CityGate point ranged from $4.97 to $5.37/MMBtu. San Juan Basin and Malin could not quite surpass the $5 threshold, reaching $4.90 and $4.95/MMBtu, respectively.

At the AECO hub, prices sauntered between $4.35 and $4.61/MMBtu [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of July 7-11, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.32-111.17 10.34-60.59
Mid-Columbia 40-46 35.25-43.5
COB 44.25-49.25 37-38
NP 15 48.25-67 35-46.25
SP 15 50.75-64.75 34.5-47.5
Palo Verde 58-69.25 31-46.75

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


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