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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
July 18, 2008
Electricity Prices Slip on Economic Slowdown, Lower Gas Prices

Daytime electricity prices tumbled across the West this week on plummeting natural gas prices, while seasonally warm temperatures kept prices close to $100 in the Southwest and California. Nighttime power eked out modest gains.

Peak power prices at the California-Oregon border tumbled throughout the week, ending $15 lower at an average of $87.87/MWh. Average off-peak prices rose steadily through Wednesday, then drooped Thursday to $67.15 before ending the week about $1.50 higher at $70.71/MWh.

At Mid-Columbia, average daytime prices slipped $7 to $78.08/MWh. Values had been climbing through Wednesday, but divested $10 on Thursday. Average nighttime trades eked out a $1.50 increase to $66.17/MWh.

California prime values traded in lockstep, ending the week about $13 lower at $99.73/MWh at North of Path 15 and $100 at South of Path 15. Prices peaked on Tuesday at around $116. Average off-prime trades were nearly flat, around $76.66 at both hubs.

Palo Verde prime prices lost $12 to an average of $95.19/MWh after peaking Tuesday at $107.62. Off-prime trades rose $7 over the week to an average of $75.46/MWh after gaining $6 in Friday trading.

Firefighters have contained more fires in California, with only 38 active blazes burning statewide, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. At its peak, nearly 2,100 fires were burning. The wildfires were touched off three weeks ago by lightning strikes and have scorched more than 907,000 acres and destroyed 241 homes, outbuildings and businesses. Fires also threaten some power lines, but most outages were prevented by a new communications process in which the California Independent System Operator notifies CalFire of endangered wires and makes their protection a priority.

Southern California finally gets to dry out this weekend after being swamped with a rash of monsoonal flash floods in the south. The Southwest and parts of the central and desert areas of California will cook in triple-digit weather this weekend. The coast will remain relatively mild, with temperatures in the low 80s in Los Angeles and high 60s in San Francisco, according to the National Weather Service. In the Northwest, temperatures will creep up into the high 70s in Seattle and low 80s in Portland.

Power demand in the Golden State peaked at 41,100 MW on Monday and ebbed to around 40,500 MW for much of the week, the California Independent System Operator reported. Demand was expected to jump to 41,700 MW today and then drift back to 40,000 MW over the weekend.

The West Coast's major nuclear power plants were operating smoothly this week, and didn't experience any real down time except for the Columbia Generating Station in Washington. On Tuesday morning, that plant powered down to repair a feedwater heater, but was back to full capacity by Wednesday [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Down on Supply Boost, Economic Worries

Natural gas prices shrank this week on a larger-than-expected increase in supplies and a three-day drop in oil prices. Fears of an economic slowdown in the second half of the year, prompted by the Federal Reserve chairman's testimony before Congress this week, helped push gas prices to their lowest level in two months. Average declines were 80 cents to $1.27/MMBtu for major West Coast trading hubs.

Natural gas in storage across the country grew by 104 Bcf -- the second-largest increase of the summer season -- to 2.312 Tcf last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. The boost was 37 percent higher than last year's injection and 25 percent bigger than the five-year average.

Overall, however, storage remains 14 percent below last year and 2 percent lower than the five-year average. Despite hot weather in many areas of the country, cooler temperatures in gas-production areas, like Texas, Florida and the Midwest, helped boost injection levels.

In the West, supplies increased by 11 Bcf to 325 Bcf, and are now 17 percent lower than last year and 6 percent less than the five-year average [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End:July 14 - 18, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 12.87 - 202.35 14.23 - 77
Mid-Columbia 73 - 100 50 - 75.25
COB 85 - 110 65 - 77
NP 15 98 - 119 71.75 - 86
SP 15 95.50 - 120 72 - 86
Palo Verde 93 - 110.50 65 - 76

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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