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Western Price Survey

September 22, 2017
Energy Prices Move at Weather's Whim

Sept. 22 marks the fall equinox, and with it, analysts await stronger signals of a transition into heating use once colder weather settles in. The Sierra Nevada, Cascade, and Olympic ranges have already seen early snowfall, while the San Francisco area expects high temperatures exceeding seasonal norms the week of Sept. 25.

Western power prices vacillated for yet another week, while natural gas values at regional hubs moved lower.

“Here in the Pacific Northwest it feels as if someone flipped a switch as what was one of the hottest and driest summers on record has suddenly given way to cooler temperatures and torrential downpours,” stated EnergyGPS analysts in a Sept. 21 report. “While the change was quite sudden, it doesn’t come as a surprise as the end of September/beginning of October marks a weather transition across the entire country.”

With the transition from cooling to heating imminent, if the extended weather forecast across the United States holds steady, EnergyGPS said it expects residential and commercial demand to remain weak over the next 10 days, and then to increase near the end of the month. Peak average power prices varied compared with the previous week. Mid-Columbia peak power gained the most, adding $3.15 to $26.25/MWh in Friday-to-Friday trading. In contrast, Palo Verde power tumbled $6.10, ending at $26.35/MWh.

Meanwhile, working natural gas in storage was 3,408 Bcf as of Sept. 15, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net increase of 97 Bcf compared to the previous week.

Natural gas demand increased 11 percent week over week, according to the EIA. The amount of natural gas used for power generation grew 23 percent as utilities restored power in Florida following Hurricane Irma and weather in the eastern U.S. grew warmer. In its assessment of hurricane-related issues, the EIA noted it does not cover Puerto Rico energy use or demand trends.

Henry Hub gas spot values added 7 cents to reach $3.11/MMBtu between Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.

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In Thursday-to-Thursday trading, Western prices moved lower by between 4 and 17 cents. El Paso-Permian natural gas lost the most, down 17 cents to $2.48/MMBtu by Sept. 21.

Power demand on the California Independent System Operator grid reached 31,877 MW Sept. 18. In the week ahead, power use should tick up to more than 36,000 MW starting Sept. 27, according to the grid operator’s forecast.

What’s ahead: In the week ahead, the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco areas expect temperatures well above normal the week of Sept. 25. Forecasters expect temperatures across the interior West to be between 10 and 16 degrees below normal through month’s end. –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.

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Contact Mavis Scanlon, editor with questions regarding Price Survey content.

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