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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
October 16, 2009
California Power Prices Rise Slightly After Storm

California was almost back to normal three days after the fiercest October storm in nearly a half-century lashed the state, bringing down a major transmission line, dumping record amounts of rain and hitting 910,000 people with power outages.

By Wednesday evening, a 500 kV transmission line near Moss Landing that had been felled by high winds returned to operation. The outage slashed the amount of power that flows on Path 15 by one-third, forcing the California Independent System Operator to declare a transmission emergency on Tuesday.

Pacific Gas & Electric crews had restored power to 908,000 people by Friday morning, and expected to restore power to the remainder this weekend, said Kory Raftery, a utility spokesman. The storm damaged 208 poles, 163 miles of wire, 338 transformers and 503 cross-arms.

Although the storm dumped record rainfall in some areas (one part of Monterey County got 20 inches), it did not end the state's drought. Currently, California has 72 percent of its normal supply of water, according to the state Department of Water Resources. To end the drought, the storm would have needed to create a lot of snow in the northern Sierras.

Electricity prices remained rather flat through Thursday, but gained enough ground on Friday to close above the start of the week. Western spot natural gas prices, which were relatively flat this week, provided little support to rising power values.

Average daytime California prices climbed $5 to $53.56/MWh at North of Path 15, and $51.64 at South of Path 15. Nighttime trades picked up $7 to $43.49/MWh in the north, and $40.07 in the south.

Palo Verde peak trades rose over $1 to average $39.37 and off-peak prices increased $3 to $32.26/MWh.

The storm left California on Thursday, replaced by a building ridge of high pressure that ushered in warmer air and sunny skies, according to AccuWeather. But onshore winds will keep temperatures cool along the coastline. From Friday through Monday, San Francisco will see temperatures dip from the low 70s into the high 50s and Los Angeles weather will fall from the low 90s into the low 70s. Cooler weather will sweep into Phoenix and bring temperatures from the high 90s to the low 90s.

Peak power demand was relatively flat through Wednesday, rising 300 MW from Monday to 29,500 MW on Wednesday, Cal-ISO reported. Starting on Thursday, top demand shot to 31,400 MW and was expected to touch 33,000 MW on Friday.

Another round of rainstorms came ashore in the Pacific Northwest, bringing temperatures down into the high 50s in Portland and Seattle, the National Weather Service said. At the California-Oregon border and Mid-Columbia hubs, power prices were mostly flat, moving $1 in either direction for the week (see chart).

For the third week in a row, natural gas inventories etched a new record high, rising 58 Bcf to hit 3.716 Tcf, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. The previous level of 3.565 Tcf was set at the end of October 2007. Gas in underground storage is now 13.8 percent above last year, and 14.6 percent above the five-year average. New record highs were also set in the West and Producing regions, and the East region is now only 11 Bcf below its 15-year high.

The West added 7 Bcf to 504 Bcf, and storage now stands 14.8 percent above last year and 15.9 percent higher than the five-year average.

On Thursday, the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant north of San Luis Obispo ramped down power at its 1,138 MW first unit to remove kelp and other debris from its cooling-water system. The unit will operate at 50 percent capacity until the debris, driven into the cooling system by Tuesday's big storm, is cleared out. The plant's 1,130 MW second unit has been off line for two weeks to replace its reactor vessel head and to refuel. In Arizona, Palo Verde's 1,336 MW second unit is also turned off while its reactor vessel head is swapped out, and will return to power next month. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's 1,070 MW second unit remains shuttered while its two steam generators are replaced, and will be closed for the next three months [Kristina Shevory].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: October 12 - 16, 2009
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 27.26-79.63 14.63-46.95
Mid-Columbia 42.50-47 36-44
COB 45.50-49.75 38.50-44.50
NP 15* 47.75-54.25 32.25-43.50
SP 15* 46-52.50 29.25-40.50
Palo Verde 36-41 25.25-33.25

* Prices represent both day-ahead locational marginal prices (financial swaps, or EZ Gen DA LMPs) and quasi-swap prices (EZ Gen) as reported by ICE.

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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