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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
August 1, 2008
Power Prices Climb on Summer Heat

Western electricity prices climbed higher this week in response to seasonally warm weather and higher demand.

Until Wednesday, power prices had generally followed natural gas prices lower. But Golden State peak demand rose throughout the week from 36,900 MW on Monday to top out Thursday at 39,000 MW. Usage was expected to fall back to 37,600 MW today but rise to 39,000 MW this weekend, according to the California Independent System Operator.

California peak load prices added $2 to an average of around $89/MWh at North of Path 15 and South of Path 15. Prices had been down until Friday, when they added $4. Average nighttime load prices climbed $10 and $9, respectively, to $70.19/MWh in the north and $69.74/MWh in the south.

Palo Verde prime power, after a seesaw week, finished nearly flat at $86.79/MWh. Off-prime trades settled at $64.36/MWh, up $7.

Average peak prices at the California-Oregon border rose $4 to $86.64/MWh. Off-peak trades gained throughout the week, settling $15 higher at an average of $70.45/MWh.

Mid-Columbia saw trades rise steadily throughout the week, increasing $15 to $80.79/MWh for daytime power. Average nighttime prices jumped $17 to $71.73/MWh.

Despite hot air and lower humidity in the high desert and central areas of California, firefighters have made progress fighting wildfires burning across the state. Five weeks ago, dry lightning strikes touched off over 2,000 wildfires in California. Most of the fires have been contained. The newest among the 25 active fires just west of Yosemite National Park is 60 percent contained, although a Pacific Gas & Electric transmission line was affected early in the week, leaving many residents without power.

The Southwest will continue to cook under triple digit temperatures, AccuWeather said. Cool weather will reign in the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle will see temperatures in the high 60s, while low 70s are expected in Portland. Along the California coast, temperatures will be mild, with San Francisco and Los Angeles in the low 60s and 80s.

A 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck Los Angeles Tuesday and while doing little damage, it did cause Southern California Edison to drop 250 MW of load, according to Cal-ISO. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported a load loss of 100 MW. All loads were restored within two hours.

The West's major nuclear plants were operating at close to full capacity this week, including the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the closest nuclear plant to the earthquake. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will perform a previously scheduled special inspection of the plant's backup systems starting this Monday. Workers found a loose connection in the system in January . [Kristina Shevory].

Natural Gas Drops on High Storage, Economic Worries

Fears of an economic slowdown and crumbling crude oil prices have nibbled the edges of natural gas values. Henry Hub benchmark prices settled at $9.11/MMBtu on Thursday, down 5 cents from Monday, according to NYMEX. A gloomy jobs report and tension with Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude producer, sent gas prices up a modest 23 cents to $9.39 on Friday.

Western natural gas prices dropped about 50 cents/MMbtu this week at the major trading hubs. San Juan closed at an average of $7.52/MMBtu, the lowest among the centers, while Pacific Gas & Electric's City Gate chalked up the highest average close at $8.40/MMBtu.

Although it was hot across much of the country, gas in storage climbed by 65 Bcf to 2.461 Tcf, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Stockpiles are nearly 13 percent below last year and half a percent below the five-year average. The weekly injection was 18 percent higher than the five-year average.

In the West, supplies ticked up 10 Bcf to 346 Bcf, leaving them almost 14 percent below the same period a year ago and over 1 percent higher than the five-year average. [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
July 28 - August 1, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 27.77-150.06 23.88-84.06
Mid-Columbia 62.25-85 52-74
COB 78-90 54-75
NP 15 83.75-93 57.50-70.50
SP 15 83-93 57-71
Palo Verde 81.25-89 52.50-66

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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