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Western Price Survey

August 2, 2013
Power Prices Sputter as August Arrives

After breaking records in early July, power prices could barely break $40/MWh this week as a sagging gas market and weak power demand exerted influence.

Earlier in the month, however, several Western hubs saw July prices not seen in the past five years.

California-Oregon Border prices, for instance, surpassed $190/MWh, while Mid-Columbia went past $160 (see "Price Trends," following page).

Palo Verde reached $130/MWh early in the month. The last time July prices at the hub were so high was in 2008, when peak values went to $141/MWh. Peak prices at NP15 and SP15, while uncharacteristically lower than the Northwest's, also set five-year records for July.

Here's how average peak-power prices fared in the July 26 to Aug. 2 trading period:

  • Mid-Columbia: Up $1.40 to $41.70/MWh.
  • California-Oregon Border: Eroded 70 cents to $43.15/MWh.
  • North of Path 15: Dropped $3 to $40.25.
  • South of Path 15: Down $1.85 to $43.70.
  • Palo Verde: Shed $2.05 to $39.10/MWh.
Off-peak prices in the Pacific Northwest added about a dollar since July 26, while Palo Verde lost $4. Prices finished in a range from $26.95/MWh at Mid-C to $29.70/MWh at Palo Verde.

Working gas in storage reached 2,845 Bcf as of Friday, July 26, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net increase of 59 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 11.5 percent less than a year ago and 1.2 percent below the five-year average.

Cooler weather has weakened natural gas prices. Values should remain low as storage additions and limp demand suppress values, noted Barclays analysts in their weekly report. Gas prices need to move to the low-$3 mark before triggering displacement of coal for electric generation. Larger-than-normal additions to natural gas storage are expected through August, with injections expected to significantly outpace the five-year average, according to Enerfax.

Henry Hub natural gas values fell 20 cents since last Friday, trading Aug. 2 at $3.38/MMBtu. Western prices followed, with Southern California Border gas losing 23 cents to $3.46 and Malin down 20 cents to $3.32 by Aug. 2 (see table at right).

What's ahead: While below-normal temperatures are forecast for Southern California between Aug. 7 and 11, above-normal temperatures are expected in Washington and Oregon between Aug. 7 and 15, according to the National Weather Service. [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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.

Please contact with questions or comments about this site.

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

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