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Western Price Survey / Archives

August 6, 1999
Market Week Fizzles on Lower Loads

A midweek bump in volume on the California Power Exchange attempted to pull power prices higher at regional trading hubs, but by Thursday everybody seemed to have run out of steam and prices sank considerably.

The Power Exchange set the market pace most of the week, with average daytime clearing prices rising to 37 mills/KWh and some individual peak hours crossing the 55 mills/KWh mark. The PX price strength was largely attributed to an increase in daily prescheduled loads above 655 GWh with some peak hours logged up to 33.5 GWh.

As if envious of the PX margins, traders at other hubs tried to push their prices higher midweek, but the lack of buyer interest meant falling prices for Friday/Saturday deliveries. The weekly price curve was a bit of a roller coaster-starting out strong on expectations of hotter temperatures and cooling loads, falling swiftly when loads did not materialize, rallying on PX prices, then coming to a stand still at week's end.

"It's pretty quiet today," a Northern California scheduler said on Thursday afternoon. "Temperatures are below normal." The PX again set the tone, with loads dropping to 618 GWh and peak prices falling to 28.5 mills/KWh.

The Mid-Columbia price rose and fell between 23.25 mills and 30 mills/KWh. The California/Oregon Border price went from as high as 37 mills/KWh to 24 mills. Palo Verde moved from 40 mills to about 33 mills/KWh.

Off-peak prices everywhere were mostly in the 20 mills to 22 mills/KWh range, but trading activity was light to non-existent later in the week and prices fell to the 17 mills to 19 mills/KWh range.

Bonneville Power Administration broke out of its recent pricing patterns tied to the Cal-PX and got back in the sales business this week. BPA offered 200 MW per hour at 29 mills to 31 mills/KWh for Northwest daytime deliveries and 30 mills to 33 mills/KWh for COB/NOB trades. Overnight prices were posted at 20.5 mills to 20.75 mills/KWh even into the weekend.

Most generation units were reported running and healthy, with no big disruptions seen on the horizon. As WNP-2 continues coasting down toward a mid-September refueling outage, its reported output was at 90 percent of capacity on Friday.

The Alberta Power Pool experienced a major price spike to 998 mills/KWh twice this week. The pool had to call a firm load alert on Wednesday as loads peaked above expected levels. All week long, operators also had to deal with constantly cycling power plants and lightning strikes that took some major transmission lines out of service [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Still Floating at a High Elevation

As if operating completely outside the dictates of Western power generation demand, the natural gas marketplace responded to national signals to maintain an unusually high elevation in pricing. Adding to the usual pressures from the national NYMEX benchmark prices, gas traders said that net injection figures were markedly low-just 26 Bcf net this week, compared to a long-term average of 85 Bcf/week.

The Southern California Border price climbed to $2.65/MMBtu largely on the coat-tails of the NYMEX screen hitting $2.70/MMBtu. "There's no load here," said a Southern California trader, citing other factors for the price hike.

Continued gas demand in the Midwest drew Texas supplies northward and prices at the Permian Basin to $2.55/MMBtu. San Juan Basin prices followed to $2.36/MMBtu.

The Canadian gas price was still heading north, as the Alberta index price crossed $(C)3.20/Gigajoule on Thursday [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of August 6, 1999
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 25-998 mills/KWh 5.8-30 mills/KWh
California PX (WAC) 28.5-37.1 21-23
Mid-Columbia 23.25-30 17-21
COB 24-37 18-22
Palo Verde 33-40.25 18-22

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 Shauna O'Donnell, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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