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Western Price Survey

October 13, 2017
Deadly Fires Challenge Utilities, Communications and Transportation

High winds spread and may have helped cause fires in Northern California that took lives and cut off power, gas service, and commuter rail and highway routes.

Fire-related disruptions began on Sunday evening with steady winds well above 50 mph, and gusts above 70 mph in Sonoma and Napa counties, soon cutting service to as many as 261,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers early in the week across those counties as well as Mendocino and Lake counties and neighboring counties to the east (see story at [14]).

While high-voltage electric lines were affected by the fires, interruptions on the distribution system kept California Independent System Operator staff busy managing frequency, reactive power, and voltage on the system, according to CAISO spokesman Steven Greenlee.

Unit 1 at the 3,739 MW Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona was scheduled for its 19th refueling-outage shutdown beginning Oct. 1. The outage began instead on Oct. 7. If completed in the planned 29 days, it will rival Unit 3’s record of 28 days, 17 hours and 37 minutes for the shortest refueling outage at the facility, which generates more energy than any other U.S. power plant.

Power prices were driven not by disaster or expected outages, but by cooler temperatures across the West. Daily weighted average California-Oregon Border prices gave up $6.75 of last Friday’s $7.40/MWh jump by Wednesday, before rising a total of $5.19 in the next two days of trading.

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Prices rose sharply in trades on Oct. 13 to cover weekend demand, with South of Path 15 prices jumping $13.42 to end the week at $46.84/MWh, $10.40 above the previous Friday’s average. COB prices were the only ones of those featured here to end this week below week-ago prices.

Natural gas prices resisted change, with many ending on Oct. 12 within a penny of week-ago values. Injections into storage of 87 Bcf nationally were equal to the five-year average injection for the latest reporting week ended Oct. 6.

Southern California Gas Co. injections into storage were affected when a key pipeline in the North Needles Subzone was taken off line Oct. 2. As flows were routed around the shut line to make scheduled deliveries in Southern California, injections dwindled and remained much lower than recent levels.

Looking ahead: The Northwest can expect much cooler temperatures and significant rain in the week ahead, spreading to Northern California by Thursday. Unusually warm temperatures are expected this weekend and early next week from San Francisco to San Diego, with 80s predicted in the north and 90s in the south by Monday. –Alan Mountjoy-Venning.

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.

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

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