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Western Price Survey / Archives

October 24, 2003
Prices Steady, Search for Tower-Tipping Suspect Continues

Power traders in the Western region got back to business Thursday after a two-day hiatus because of the Northwest Power Pool's system schedulers meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday, trading was conducted for Tuesday through Thursday deliveries.

News of a transmission-tower saboteur heated up the news wires this week, as utility workers and law enforcement agents discovered bolts had been removed from a number of tower footings in the region. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is handling the case and the agency has an arrest warrant out for a Spokane-based man..

Power supply easily kept up with demand this week-- even in Los Angeles Department of Water & Power territory. The large muni reported a new peak-demand figure for the month of October was reached this Tuesday. LADWP said that demand hit 4,768 MW that day. Temperatures in the Los Angeles area have reached 100 degrees Farenheit this week, though a spokesperson for LADWP said the muni had ample supply to meet demand. Usage in LADWP territory this week increased 40 percent over last week in some areas, as air- conditioners worked overtime to cool residential and commercial buildings.

Peak loads in the California Independent System Operator's territory kept to the mid-thirties during the week, peaking at 36,464 MW on Tuesday. Day-of load forecasts were revised upward for Friday, on the expectation of warmer-than-predicted temperatures. The day-ahead load for the end of the week was given as 34,093 by the system operator but was boosted up to 35,363 on Friday morning.

The Pacific DC Intertie began the week derated completely as inspection and maintenance on the line continued. Wednesday saw the line repowered, but only for testing most of that day. By the evening the path was available but limited to 1,086 MW in the north-to- south direction and 1,070 MW south to north.

In contrast to the worrisome notices of bolt removal on transmission towers, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council daily report this week listed that there were no major transmission outages significantly affecting the California-Oregon Intertie on both Tuesday and Thursday.

Generation-facility outages in Cal-ISO territory this week remained in the 5,000 MW range. On Monday, the grid operator's Web site listed a number of larger units off line on planned outage, including the 335 MW El Segundo Unit No. 3, the 337 MW Contra Costa Unit No. 6 and Pacific Gas & Electric's 407 MW Helms Unit No. 1 pumped-storage unit. All three were off line the entire week. On Wednesday, the 750 MW Four Corners No. 5 unit joined the list, but was on a forced outage. The 217 MW La Paloma No. 3 unit was added to the unplanned-outage list Friday morning.

Aside from Palo Verde Unit No. 2, which is on a refueling outage, the region's nuclear facilities were at full output.

Prices at Mid-Columbia slipped significantly on power packages traded for weekend delivery. After opening the week at between 35.25 mills and 38.25 mills/KWh, peak power at the hub sank as low as 29 mills/KWh during Thursday's trading session. Mead prices, on the other hand, remained fairly firm throughout the week. Peak power moved for between 48 mills and 51 mills/KWh at the hub throughout the week.

Palo Verde power also managed to keep to the high end of the range this week, as high-demand deliveries changed hands for as much as 49 mills/KWh on Friday [Shauna O'Donnell].

Gas Gains, Then Tanks

The price of natural gas at Western hubs found some buoyancy early in the week, as cooling temperatures in other parts of the country boosted the price of the commodity and Western gas drafted in the wake. The trend reversed a bit later in the week after the Energy Information Administration released its storage figures for the week ending October 17.

The EIA reported that the amount of gas in the nation's underground storage finally topped 3 Bcf last week, a figure it was not at all certain would be reached earlier in the year. In the West, 11 Bcf was put into storage last week, raising the region's stored-gas quantity 6.5 percent above the five-year average. The EIA also announced it would be altering the way it surveys for the report at the end of the month. The sample pool used for the survey would increase from 44 to 55 companies. The agency will also revise storage figures for each week since July 4 on October 30.

The abundance of gas in some California pipelines also dragged prices downward toward the end of the week. Pacific Gas & Electric's California Gas Transmission system declared system-wide operational flow orders for both Wednesday and Thursday because of high inventory.

Gas arriving into California via the Malin hub traded for a low of $4.145/MMBtu on Monday, skipped up by a dime the following day before dropping as low as $4.01/MMBtu in Friday trading. Topock gas prices also slipped significantly as the week wore on. Opening on Monday in the $4.30 to $4.55/MMBtu range, the price dropped to a low of $4.27/MMBtu by the end of the week.

San Juan gas dove below the $4.00 benchmark on Friday, trading for as low as $3.965/MMBtu [S O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of October 20-24, 2003
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 43.33-509.55 13.99-291.77
Mid-Columbia 29.50-38.25 23.25-34
COB 40-46 29-38.25
NP 15 43-49.75 31.50-41
SP 15 47-52 29.25-37.25
Palo Verde 43.25-49.50 26.50-39.75

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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