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Western Price Survey

October 21, 2016
Winter Is Coming: California May Face Local Challenges

Energy markets are well supplied despite localized challenges facing Southern California for the winter ahead, the U.S. Energy Information Administration stated in its 2016-2017 Winter Energy Market Assessment, issued Oct. 20.

Local challenges arise from reduced operations at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility as well as evening demand ramps. But the EIA predicted that grid reliability will not be affected.

Renewables are able to meet demand at midday; however, thermal generation is dispatched in the late afternoon to meet power needs as solar generation diminishes and load increases. The infamous “duck curve” demonstrates this, and has continued widening since January 2011 thanks to growing amounts of solar power on the grid.

CAISO will be able to meet winter needs and does not expect local congestion or transmission reductions on major paths, according to an Oct. 20 presentation to FERC by Nancy Traweek, CAISO’s executive director, system operations.

Good electric-gas coordination, advanced electric planning, and bidding flexibility—including ramping for real-time dispatch in particular—should mitigate any potential risks, the grid operator said. It anticipates less demand this winter, with greater flexibility outside the Southern California Gas Co. service area. Economic transfers of electricity made possible through the energy imbalance market (EIM) are also helping to support reliability, CAISO stated.

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Working natural gas in storage was 3,836 Bcf as of Oct. 14, according to EIA estimates, a net increase of 77 Bcf versus the previous week.

Henry Hub gas spot values lost 7 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading, ending at $3.09/MMBtu on Oct. 20.

Western natural gas values varied, with some hubs up as much as 22 cents. PG&E CityGate, however, was down 3 cents to $3.24/MMBtu, and Alberta dropped 3 cents to $2.30.

Meanwhile, Western peak power prices were up a dollar or two in the Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 trading period. Mid-Columbia gained the most, adding $2.75 to reach $24.25/MWh.

Average nighttime power prices added between $2.90 and $6.50 in trading. Mid-C added $6.50 to hit $24/MWh.

Demand peaked on the CAISO grid at 32,776 MW on Oct. 20. Solar peaked at 7,951 MW that day, and thermal peaked at 18,069 MW [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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


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Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey content.

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