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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
October 24, 2008
Economy Pounds Energy Prices

It's the economy, stupid. Just like former President Bill Clinton said in his presidential campaign, the economy was the obvious culprit behind a fall-off in power and energy prices this week.

Daytime electricity prices could not hold onto their meager gains through Wednesday and ended the week as much as $9 lower. Slumping natural gas prices also contributed to the decline.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index plunged to a five-year low this week as a flurry of companies reported dismal earnings and the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave Congress a dim short-term outlook of the economy. Unemployment claims soared to 478,000 in the week ended Oct. 18, a jump of 44 percent since the same time last year.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries trimmed oil production for the first time in almost two years, but traders did not seem to care. Oil prices fell to $64.21 a barrel Friday, putting the week's losses at about $10.

Natural gas prices fell across the country this week on slumping crude prices, economic worries and a rise in supplies. Lost production in the Gulf of Mexico from Hurricanes Ike and Gustav and pipeline maintenance did not seem to have much effect on prices.

Natural gas in storage rose by 70 Bcf -- higher than last year or the five-year average -- to 3.347 Tcf, the Energy Information Administration said. Mild weather kept homeowners from turning on their furnaces and reduced the amount of power generated. The Edison Electric Institute reported that electric production fell 1.6 percent last week.

Gas inventories now stand almost 3 percent higher than the five-year average, while the gap between last year's levels slimed down. Supplies are 2.2 percent lower than last year.

Western supplies are 3 percent above the five-year average after a weekly injection of 4 Bcf. At 444 Bcf, stockpiles are 1.6 percent below last year.

The supply rise helped buttress a slow production recovery in the hurricane-battered gulf. About 35 percent of its natural gas production remains closed, according to the Minerals Management Service.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is slowly returning to full power after jellyfish clogged one of the unit's ocean water intake screens. The second unit was tripped offline Tuesday, and the first was taken down to half power as a safety measure. By Friday, the first unit was back online and the second unit was exiting the outage. The two units each produce about 1,130 MW.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Palo Verde nuclear plant have units down for nearly two months of maintenance and refueling. At San Onofre, work was underway on the 1,080 MW third unit's water pump condenser. Palo Verde's first 1,336 MW unit is offline.

Electricity demand in the Golden State rose steadily through the week from 30,900 MW on Monday to 33,600 MW on Thursday. Power needs were expected to shrink back to around 32,000 MW this weekend, according to the state Independent System Operator.

A dome of high pressure over the Four Corners has been funneling hot, dry air into Southern California this week and boosting the chance of wildfires, AccuWeather said.

Temperatures have soared past seasonal levels in the 70s to hit 90 degrees In Los Angeles, were it was expected to remain this weekend.

Northern California and the Northwest were getting a shot of warm weather. San Francisco has been enjoying temperatures in the mid 70s, while Seattle and Portland were in the high 50s to low 60s.

In California, average daytime prices were down $9 at $50.63/MWh for North of Path 15 and $47.47/MWh for South of Path 15. Average nighttime values rose $2 to $45.18/MWh in the north and fell nearly $3 to $34.98/MWh.

At the California-Oregon border, peak prices dropped $5 to an average of $54.85/MWh. Average off-peak trades added more than $4 to $47.58/MWh.

The Mid-Columbia trading hub saw average prime trades loose $5 to $50.18/MWh. Off prime prices were up $5 at $46.06/MWh.

In Phoenix, the heat was expected to climb into the low 90s this weekend. Average Palo Verde peak power trades were shaved $9 to $38.42/MWh, while off-peak values were shed more than $2 to $29.44/MWh [Kristina Shevory].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: October 20 - 24, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 34.62-998.83 10.81-104.10
Mid-Columbia 46.25-61 40.50-54
COB 53-65.50 42.25-50.25
NP 15 48.50-67 41.50-50.50
SP 15 45.25-65 34-39
Palo Verde 35.50-55.75 38-34.25

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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