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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
October 29, 2010
Cold, Wet System in Store for Winter

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center expects a moderate to strong La Niña system this winter, which is already influencing the Western climate. Snow in the Cascades, 31 inches at Mount Hood since Oct. 24, has encouraged some ski resorts to open early. But the inland ranges -- in Idaho, eastern Washington/western Montana and Canada -- that feed the Columbia River hydro system have not yet had snow levels on a par with the Cascades.

Bonneville Power Administration meteorologist Chris Karafotias says these La Niña systems "can either bring us spells of mild, rainy weather or a colder pattern where Arctic air comes into our area." Some years the two patterns switch frequently, which is anticipated this winter. In fact, Karafotias predicts that the jet stream will dip well into California, bringing with it cold air, while "in the Pacific Northwest, all hell could break loose" with abundant snowfall December through March.

BPA's Michael Millstein says snow this early in the year is promising, but there is a chance the current snowpack could melt. The last two winters' below-average snowpack meant less surplus power for the agency to sell.

As for Western electricity prices, in the Friday-to-Friday trading period Oct. 22 to Oct. 29, average peak-power prices jumped between about 75 cents and almost $6/MWh. No trades were recorded Thursday, Oct. 28.

Over the trading period, South and North of Path 15 average peak-power prices gained between about $5.80 and $5.90. Daytime average power prices at the hubs ended a bit above $39/MWh.

California-Oregon Border daytime power gained almost $1.60 to an average of $34.58/MWh on Friday. Meanwhile, Mid-Columbia average prices were up about 75 cents to $34.58/MWh Friday.

Palo Verde peak power gained about $2.10, trading for an average of $33.27/MWh Friday.

Off-peak power prices moved nominally. Average prices for nighttime power ranged between about $24.10/MWh and $28.50/MWh (see chart).

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 30,549 MW Thursday, the week's high. Demand is not expected to exceed 32,200 MW the next seven days.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a 71 Bcf addition to natural gas reserves provided a total of 3.754 Tcf in storage as of Oct. 22, about even with inventories last year.

Henry Hub spot gas traded at $3.37/MMBtu on Wednesday, Oct. 27, down 9 cents from the previous Wednesday. By Friday, the average price was $3.36. The November futures contract expired Oct. 27, ending at $3.29/MMBtu. December futures, meanwhile, traded for $3.76/MMBtu Wednesday, down 13 cents compared to the previous Wednesday.

What's ahead: Another storm front enters the Northwest on Monday, Nov. 1, bringing a chance of rain and windy conditions to Seattle that night. In Oregon, the Interstate 5 corridor and areas east should be dry Monday night through Tuesday; a chance of rain is forecast for Portland Wednesday and Thursday. San Francisco should have sunny weather with temperatures in the 70s Monday through Thursday. The greater Los Angeles region will be dry starting late Sunday, with temperatures expected to be higher than normal, especially Tuesday and Wednesday [Linda Dailey Paulson].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: October 25 - 29, 2010
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 22.70-181.58 15.66-60.69
Mid-Columbia 29.80-35 24.50-32.50
COB 33-37 27.25-34.40
NP 15* 34.75-39.65 26.45-30.95
SP 15* 33.75-40 24.50-29.75
Palo Verde 29-35.75 20.50-28.25

* 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.


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

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