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Western Price Survey / Archives

November 2, 2001
Power Prices Go into Hiding, but BPA Comes Out to Play in Daily Market

The Halloween blue moon played tricks on power markets this week, sending prices up and down in unpredictable ways. Another surprise turn this week saw Bonneville Power Administration back in the spot power sales market after a nearly five-month absence.

Though prices at some Western hubs crossed the 40 mills/KWh mark for the first time since Labor Day, there was nothing propping them up and the floor gave way midweek. Part of the equation was the passage of time, as October contracts gave way to November deals.

Although colder nighttime temperatures seem to be keeping off-peak power prices relatively close to the daytime prices, there has not been a huge run-up in heating loads on a sustained basis.

Loads have been moderate in California, with Cal-ISO typically coming it at 29,100 MW to 30,400 MW at peak. The peak of the daily load curve is heavily weighted to the 6 pm to 8 pm period following the return to standard time last weekend.

After two relatively steady days of pricing in the high 30s to low 40s-especially at Palo Verde and California/Oregon Border points-day- ahead power tailed off toward the end of Wednesday's trading sessions and continued falling on Thursday. Mid-Columbia and COB to 30 mills at peak. SP15 was holding at 31 mills to 34 mills/KWh, but Palo Verde dropped to 30 mills to 33 mills/KWh range.

Off-peak prices were a mixed bag: Mid-Columbia slipped from 29.5 mills to 26 mills; NP15 was seen in the 27 mills to 30 mills range and SP15 was 26 mills to 27.25 mills/KWh. Palo Verde was thinly traded in the absence of two nuclear units, but the Nevada prices were reportedly down to 21.5 mills/KWh.

Generation outages of note this week included unplanned events at Four Corners and the new Calpine Sutter facility. A few big hydro facilities are out for repairs, including Helms and Big Creek, as well as 600 MW of the Hyatt Thermalito plant run by the state of California and 400 MW of capacity at Lake Shasta.

By Friday, the list of units on scheduled maintenance had swelled to over 9,500 MW, with another 2,626 MW of unplanned outages.

San Onofre No. 2 returned to service over the past weekend after operators repaired a moisture separator problem and did other cleanup work. Though the unit had been expected to be out for 20 days, it returned in about half the time.

Two other nukes at Palo Verde remain offline for repairs and refueling. According to Arizona Public Service, Unit No. 3 will complete its refueling outage by the end of next week and Unit No. 2 will resume generation a few days after that. Traders are pinning the dates to November 6-9 for the two units to return to full service.

BPA put 50 MW of power up for bid on its daily posting for November 5, the first such listing since June 5. The daytime-only energy will be priced "quot;at market"quot; although BPA did not specify what benchmarks it will use [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Prices Bounce Along

The change of month pulled the rug out from under natural gas and prices retreated from a midweek high point above $3/MMBtu at most Western locations. Traders saw a little bounce on Thursday, as buyers scooped up bargains, but some projected surpluses over the coming weekend that could cause imbalance flow orders to be imposed on California pipelines.

The ranges for the week were about $0.10/MMBtu at most basins but as much as $0.35/MMBtu at the San Francisco CityGate. Delivered prices in Northern California were as high as $3.33 before plummeting to $2.95 on Thursday and bouncing to $3/MMBtu.

The SoCal Border at Topock was not quite so volatile, but still managed to ping-pong between $2.94 and $3.15/MMBtu.

San Juan and Permian supplies mostly kept within a few pennies of each other and stuck close behind the national NYMEX benchmarks in the $2.80 to $3.01/MMBtu range. However, on Thursday, San Juan dropped to $2.65 while Permian stuck at $2.81/MMBtu.

Alberta gas was on a bumpy ride as well, in a range between $(C) 4.08/Gigajoule at the high end and $3.72/Gj at the low [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of October 29-November 2, 2001
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 28.5-132 10-45
Mid-Columbia 30-39.75 26-29.5
COB 31-40 25-30
NP 15 31-38.5 27-30
SP 15 31-38.75 26-27.25
Palo Verde 30-41.5 24.25-26

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


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