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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
July 25, 2008
Power Prices Slump on Natural Gas Prices, Weather, Economy

Tumbling natural gas prices, cooler weather and fears of an economic slowdown sent Western electricity prices on a downdraft this week, with wholesale electricity price losses extending from 39 cents to $11/MWh.

California prime values lost $11 since Monday to settle at an average of $89.79/MWh at North of Path 15 and $89.80/MWh for South of Path 15. Average off-prime trades dropped 56 cents in the north and 45 cents in the south, finishing Friday around $70/MWh at both hubs.

Peak prices at Palo Verde followed a similar path, divesting $11 to finish $88.16/MWh, down $11. Average off-peak trades inched down 38 cents to $65.01/MWh.

Demand for power in California rose throughout the week, from 36,200 MW on Monday to 39,300 MW on Thursday, the California Independent System Operator reported. Usage was expected to top 40,200 today and remain around 41,000 MW this weekend.

But the West Coast's major nuclear plants were running at nearly full capacity to meet usual high summer demand. On Monday morning, a fire alarm sounded at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, but officials are still looking into its activation.

Average peak power prices at the California-Oregon border lost about $10 to $80.88/MWh. Trades climbed to a peak of $92.17 on Wednesday before falling back $11. Off-peak prices shed $5 to an average of $63.49/MWh.

Daytime power prices at the Mid-Columbia trading hub fell about $7 to an average of $73.90/MWh. Trades had been rising through Wednesday and then fell $15 to finish the week at $69.45. Nighttime trades closed down $6 at $61.23/MWh.

Over 98 percent of the wildfires burning across the Golden State have been contained since dry lightning storms touched them off five weeks ago. All but 27 of the 2,093 fires have been put out, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Nearly 200 businesses, homes and outbuildings have been destroyed.

Rain from Tropical Rainstorm Dolly will continue to spread into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southeastern California. The Southwest will need the storms because temperatures are expected to top 100 Fahrenheit in Phoenix thanks to the jet stream's retreat into western Canada and rising high pressure, AccuWeather said.

The entire West Coast will enjoy cooler weather this weekend. Temperatures will fall into the mid 60s in Seattle, mid 70s in Portland, low 60s in San Francisco and low 80s in Los Angeles. [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Slides on High Storage, Lower Crude

Prices for natural gas have been in a freefall, shedding 32 percent this month on slumping crude oil prices, high storage levels and fears of a prolonged economic slowdown. Crumbling crude prices, which lost nearly 5 percent this week to close below $125 per barrel, also deflated natural gas trades.

The Henry Hub benchmark closed at a four-month low on Friday, down about 3 percent at $9.08/MMBtu, according to the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On the West Coast, natural gas prices dropped an average of 80 cents to $1.20/MMBtu this week. Average prices ranged from a low of $8.19/MMBtu at San Juan to $9.03/MMBtu at Pacific Gas & Electric's City Gate.

Approximately 84 Bcf went into storage across the country last week, more than analysts expected. Total storage hit at 2.396 Tcf mark last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported. For the second week in a row, the weekly injection was higher than last year or the five-year average. Total storage is now about 13 percent below last year and 1 percent less than the five-year average.

Western supplies inched up by 11 Bcf to 336 Bcf, leaving them 15 percent below last year and 4 percent lower than the five-year average. [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
July 21 - 25, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 24.95-461.60 16.57-439.73
Mid-Columbia 64-85.25 58-69
COB 76-94 61-70
NP 15 88.10-101.50 63-71.50
SP 15 87-101.75 64.65-71.50
Palo Verde 84-102 60-73

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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Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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