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Western Price Survey / Archives

September 19, 2003
The Scent of Fading Load Hangs in the Air

"Prices are pretty stinky today," remarked one trader on Wednesday. "The are just no loads . . . no market in real-time . . . and ample generation."

A combination such as the one described above has gave a sort of ho-hum feeling to the electricity-trading business this week. Prices at just about all of the Western hubs notched down by a mill or three per day.

Loads in the California Independent System Operator territory followed a similar trajectory, topping off on Monday at 36,803 MW, dropping by more than 2,500 MW Tuesday and fading to 33,558 MW on Wednesday. The grid operator did target an increase in load for Thursday, up to 35,848 MW--an indication that a warming trend may be moving into the state and boosting generation requirements. That load forecast actually turned out to be a smidge low as the peak for the day reached 35,887 MW in Cal-ISO territory. Friday's peak load was forecast to reach 37,012 MW.

Still, there is no reason to think the electricity- generating system throughout the West will be stressed any time soon. Barring a significant number of outages at power plants in the region, more than ample power is available for the asking. All nuclear generating units in the West continue to be healthy and fully operational. The generation-outage list on the Cal-ISO Web site hardly broke 2,000 MW in the early part of the week. That figure increased to about 3,300 MW for the latter half of the week. Within the grid operator's control territory, units that were curtailed were generally ramped down by no more than 50 MW.

The only unit outage of any note during the first half of the week occurred Tuesday, when the 235 MW La Paloma No. 4 unit moved into a planned outage; even that lasted less than a day. By Thursday, a few other generating facilities were showing a bit of wear and tear. The grid operator listed the 549 MW Elk Hills facility on a forced outage and the 226 MW Huntington Beach No. 3 unit and the 741 MW Ormond No. 1 unit were idle, with both listed as being on planned outages.

Off-peak trades were moving for between 35.50 mills and 39.50 mills/KWh at Mid-Columbia on Monday. By Thursday, trades for light loads at the hub were down in the 27.50 mills to 30.25 mills/KWh range. SP15 trades for peak deliveries closed as high at 50.75 mills/KWh at the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week had sagged to between 38.50 mills and 43.50 mills/KWh.

California/Oregon Border prices remained a bit higher than Mid-C throughout the week, with Monday's peak price at the hub topping out at 45 mills/KWh. By Thursday, the price for power was resting in the 40 mills/KWh vicinity.

The transmission system in the West was not particularly stressed this week, despite a number of line derates. The California/Oregon Intertie was limited to 4,000 MW north to south and 2,450 MW south to north all week because the 500 KV Hanford Ostrander No. 1 was out of service. Path 26 continued to be limited to 2,500 MW north to south because of the 2AA bank outage at the Vincent Substation caused by a fire last spring. According to Southern California Edison, the station should return to three banks later this month. Edison also announced the addition of a fourth bank at the substation by June of next year. On Thursday, Path 26 was limited to 1,250 MW south to north from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm because of a Tracy-Los Baņos line outage [Shauna O'Donnell].

Storage Units Receive More than 100 Bcf for the Week

Lack of demand in the electricity sector also influenced the natural gas markets this week as PG&E's California Gas Transmission system called operational flow orders for Wednesday and Thursday. The system- wide flow orders were called because of high inventory, or because of too much gas in the pipeline and not enough draw from it.

Both OFOs were system wide, with the tolerance band for Wednesday's order being zero. A bit more flexibility was provided by CGT for Thursday's OFO, which had a tolerance band of 10 percent. The OFOs for both days were called as Stage 2 and came with a noncompliance charge of $1.00/Dth.

The Energy Information Administration's weekly working-gas storage numbers were released on Thursday, despite the fact that federal agencies were closed that day because of Hurricane Isabel. The EIA numbers showed an injection of a hefty 102 Bcf for the week ending September 12. The amount of gas in storage in the West for the close of last week was given as 348 Bcf, a 1.8 percent increase over the 5-year average for the region. Still, Western storage figures remained 46 Bcf lower than at the same time last year.

The price for natural gas in the West lacked any real volatility this week; Alberta prices were especially sedate, shifting a mere penny from $4.24 to $4.25/MMBtu all week before dropping down to $4.20/MMBtu on Friday.

CityGate prices exhibited a bit more movement, opening at between $4.84 and $4.87/MMBtu on Monday then sinking to between $4.60 and $4.665/MMBtu by Thursday [S O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of September 8-12, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 27.11-156.15 10.37-40.13
Mid-Columbia 37.50-44 27.50-39.50
COB 40-45 26-35
NP 15 42-51 29.50-33.50
SP 15 42.25-50.75 29-41.50
Palo Verde 38.25-43.50 25-38.25

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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