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Western Price Survey / Archives

August 29, 2003
Operators Mum on Northwest Outage; Prices Take It in Stride

The price for electricity moved up during the first part of this week, when compared to last week's prices. Hot weather over most of California during the past weekend and on Monday nudged up prices at most hubs but the rally leveled off by Wednesday as temperatures through-out the West kept to seasonal norms. Still, off-peak prices managed to climb upward throughout the week.

Peak loads within the California Independent Sys-tem Operator control area have hugged the 40,000 MW line most of the week so far, with a high of 42,544 MW reached on Monday. The California grid operator had no trouble meeting demand, but the same could not be said further north, in PacifiCorp territory.

PacifiCorp was forced to shed interruptible load at about 2:00 pm Monday afternoon. The accompanying Level Two Alert lasted until about 4:30 p.m., at which time all load was restored. The reason for the alert was not immediately known, but available information points to the dropping off line of a number of coal- fired units in the Northwest.

Two units each at coal plants at Colstrip, Montana, and Centralia, Washington, along with three units at the Jim Bridger power plant in Wyoming and one unit at the Dave Johnston Power Plant, also in Wyoming, are said to have tripped off line around the same time on Monday. The outage tally came to about 4,600 MW for the coal-fired facilities.

A fire in the cooling tower at Jim Bridger appears to have caused the Bridger plant to trip. The fire was blamed on a fan in the cooling. Reasons for the other outages were treated as state secrets and no one at the fa-cilities in question would provide any details.

The loss of that amount of power had little effect on prices in the day-ahead or longer-term markets, said one power trader in the Northwest. Nevertheless, the outages did make the real-time price "bounce around a bit" on Monday.

Few generating facilities of significant size were listed by Cal-ISO as being unavailable during the first half of this week. The number swelled a bit as the week progressed. Duke's 755 MW Moss Landing No. 7 unit was on a planned outage on Monday, was up and running the next day, but went down again on a forced outage late Wednesday. It was available again by the end of the week. The 755 MW No. 6 unit at the facility also was listed on forced outage status by Cal-ISO for part of the week. AES' Huntington Beach Units No. 2, 3 and 4 were also listed as off line during the middle of the week, though Nos. 3 and 4 were back in operation Thursday afternoon.

One unit that has been on a forced outage for a number of weeks is back in operation. Sometime over the weekend, the 234 MW La Paloma No. 2 unit was removed from the grid operator's list of unavailable units. Both Unit Nos. 1 and 3 were out of commission on Friday, however.

Palo Verde peak power opened the week at be-tween 51 mills and 53.75 mills/KWh and slipped downward ever so slightly by Friday, registering at about 50 mills/KWh for transactions that day. Off-peak power at the hub remained fairly constant during the first half of the week--trading for between 33.50 mills and 35 mills/KWh. The price for off-peak power at PV, however, hit 43.50 mills/KWh on Thursday. In the Northwest, the price for peak power at Mid-Columbia hit a high of 49 mills/KWh on Tuesday, tapering to between 43.50 mills and 45.50 mills/KWh on Wednesday, only to rise again to between 44.50 mills and 49.75 mills/KWh on Friday for next week's deliveries.

Four Corners and SP15 trades kept to the higher range of the price scale this week. Four Corners peak power moved for between 50 mills and 54.75 mills/KWh and SP15 power topped out at 56.50 mills/KWh on Wednes- day. Off-peak prices remained firm at SP15, moving for as much at 45.50 mills at the end of the week [Shauna O'Donnell, with reporting by Steve Ernst].

Eastern Outage Shorts EIA Numbers

A relatively low amount of gas was placed into the nation's storage facilities last week, and market watchers blamed the massive power outages in the East. The En-ergy Information Administration tallied 53 Bcf of natural gas injections, far lower than the 70 Bcf that was forecast to be injected. The tripping off line of a number of nuclear generating units last week drove demand for electricity from natural gas-fired units, limiting storage numbers. Underground storage units increased by 5 Bcf, with the producing regions adding 11 Bcf to their stores.

Little volatility was seen at most trading hubs this week, though prices took a dip on Friday because of the upcoming long weekend. Alberta gas, which had opened on Monday at $4.65/MMBtu dropped to $4.35/MMBtu by the end of the week, while San Juan gas lost $0.20 over the course of the week. SF CityGate prices were higher but also dropped a dime or two. CityGate gas was moving from between $5.08 and $5.27/MMBtu in the early part of the week, but sagged to the $5.00/MMBtu mark by the end of the week [S O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of August August 4-8, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 10.27-200.07 10.34-121.24
Mid-Columbia 37-49.75 33-41
COB 40.25-50.50 37.25-41
NP 15 46.50-56.75 36.25-46.25
SP 15 49-56.50 35-45.50
Palo Verde 44.50-53.75 33.50-43.50

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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