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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
November 7, 2008
Warm Weather Lifts SoCal Power; Natural Gas Rises on Scant Storage

The country has a new president elect and optimism about the country's affairs is improving, but the economy is still gloomy.

Last month, companies slashed 240,000 jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to 6.5 percent -- its highest point in 14 years, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Unemployment had been at 6.1 percent. There are now 10.1 million unemployed people in the country, the most since 1983. Retail sales also took a beating last month, with many stores posting declines in the double digits.

Energy prices went for a ride this week, soaring on the backs of the American presidential elections and stock markets, before falling back to earth on recession worries. On Thursday, crude prices hit a 19-month low of $60.77 a barrel after the International Monetary Fund said industrialized economies would shrink next year. On Friday, oil and natural gas prices ended the week lower than where they started at $61.21 a barrel and $6.76/MMBtu.

In the West, however, natural gas climbed as much as $1.50 higher than Monday, with average prices touching $5.99/MMBtu at Pacific Gas & Electric's CityGate. Most power prices rose higher alongside natural gas.

Overall, the winter refill season, which lasts from April through the end of October, ended higher than usual thanks to onshore natural gas production and high-priced forward contracts. This year, 2.15 Tcf was funneled into storage versus the five-year average of 2.05 Tcf. Natural gas for delivery during the winter months of December through February was nearly $1/MMBtu higher than spot prices, giving traders plenty of incentive to stash the heating fuel in storage

But thanks to cold weather in much of the country last week, the weekly injection of natural gas into storage was lower than usual. Supplies inched up by only 12 Bcf to 3.405 Tcf last week, the Energy Information Administration said, leaving totals a little over 2 percent above the five-year average. Compared to last year, storage is almost 4 percent lower.

In the West, storage rose a meager 6 Bcf to 457 Bcf, with stockpiles 4 percent higher than the five-year average but 1 percent below last year's levels.

Electricity usage drifted between 30,500 MW and 31,000 MW this week, according to the California Independent System Operator. Power demand was expected to remain the same through Sunday.

The weather continues to be toasty in Southern California this weekend with temperatures in the high 80s. In Southern California, daytime prices accordingly soared $14 to an average of $53.21/MWh for South of Path 15.

Sunny skies and warm weather in Phoenix also kept Palo Verde prices high, as peak power ended the week at an average of $43.79/MWh, up $13. Off-peak values climbed $19 to $39.95/MWh.

At North of Path 15, however, daytime average prices lost 40 cents to settle at an average of $53.79/MWh.

It's rain and more rain in the Northwest this weekend thanks to storms rolling in from the Pacific. Over two inches of rain fell in Seattle on Thursday, and flood watches are in effect throughout the area, according to AccuWeather. Temperatures in Seattle and Portland are expected to drift down from the high 50s and low 60s to the low 50s this weekend.

The Mid-Columbia border saw average prime values fall $1.40 to $49.28/MWh. Off-prime trades climbed over $3 to average $46.64/MWh.

At the California-Oregon border, peak prices rose about $1 to an average of $53.68/MWh. Average off-peak prices eked out a $4 increase to $48.02/MWh.

The Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating System north of San Diego have each have one unit down for maintenance and refueling. Palo Verde's 1,336 MW first unit and San Onofre's 1,080 MW third unit have been offline for about a month and will be restarted in a few weeks [Kristina Shevory].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: November 3 - 7, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 14.56-999.99 17.59-93.02
Mid-Columbia 47-55.75 42.25-47.75
COB 51.50-57.50 43-49
NP 15 50-59.75 41-51.75
SP 15 38-58.25 23.25-50.50
Palo Verde 28.75-48.50 18.25-43.50

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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