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Western Price Survey / Archives

November 22, 2002
Prices Knee-Deep in Water

Despite increased loads on the California Independent System Operator grid toward the end of the week, spot electric prices found themselves sinking amid rising hydroelectric supplies. Prices began at strong levels but couldn't sustain it, as temperatures were higher throughout California for much of the week.

By Friday, however, prices at various hubs began to return to higher ground.

On Wednesday, federal power marketer Bonneville Power Administration put 500 MW of on-peak supplies up for sale for Thursday and Friday deliveries, up from 400 MW earlier in the week. With even more water available on Thursday, BPA boosted its off-peak offer from 100 MW to 300 MW for Sunday-Monday supplies.

For the most part, demand on the Cal-ISO system held in the 30,500 MW range early in the week, then filled out by about 1,000 MW more on Wednesday and Thursday.

Generation units continue to undergo planned repairs around the state according to ISO reports. Pockets of lost capacity due to unplanned outages included Mirant's Contra Costa Unit 7, which curtailed all 337 MW of capacity for several days.

At the Palo Verde nuclear generating station, Unit 1 was operating at 98 percent capacity early in the week, then slipped to 97 percent midweek and inched back to 98 percent by Friday. Unit 3 followed the same pattern, moving from 99 percent to full power and then returning to 99 percent.

Transmission maintenance took capacity off the California-Oregon Intertie this week, which was derated to about 3,000 MW on the north-south path.

Prices for on-peak power at Mid-Columbia rose to 32.5 mills on Tuesday, sagged to about 28 mills midweek, and marched up to 33.25 mills/KWh on Friday. Off-peak prices fell to 22.5 mills for some midweek trades before rising to 28 mills to 29 mills/KWh on Friday. COB heavy-load trades drew prices between 33 mills and 37 mills throughout the week.

At NP 15 and SP 15, prices for on-peak energy hovered near 40 mills/KWh. NP 15 prices rose to 42.5 mills Tuesday and lapsed to about 36 mills/KWh on Thursday. SP 15 premiums did the same after reaching a high of 43.25 mills/KWh earlier in the week. Both hubs ended the week in the 40 mills to 42 mills/KWh range.

In the Southwest, on-peak prices at Palo Verde bucked the trend for most of the week. Prices for heavy-load hours started between 30.5 mills and 33.25 mills/KWh and held there before falling back to 28 mills to 30.5 mills/KWh on Thursday. Premiums jumped back to the 33 mills to 34 mills/KWh range by week's end.

Palo Verde light-load prices ranged between 21.25 mills and 24 mills/KWh through Wednesday and stayed there on Friday.

At the Alberta hub in Canada, real-time prices ballooned to 649 mills for one on-peak trade, and several peak-hour prices topped 150 mills/KWh this week. Prices for off-peak power were consistently higher than in recent weeks, and on-peak loads topped 8,000 MW each day, hitting a high of 8,326 MW on Monday [Jason Mihos].

Gas Market Maintains Holding Pattern

Without even a hint of wintry weather this week, spot gas prices were in no hurry to go anywhere. Prices vacillated between slight increases and decreases as load continued to make itself scarce.

"It's pretty much what I would expect to see," said one trader after recounting the warm temperatures in Western regions. "Everything's pretty stable right now."

Though California and the Southwest are enjoying a long, mild fall, it's possible that colder weather in the Midwest and on the East Coast could divert basin gas supplies from Western markets, driving prices up, another trader speculated.

For now, prices prefer the contentment of well-worn ranges established in recent weeks. At the Permian Basin, supplies traded for as much as $4/MMBtu midweek, moved to the $3.81 to $3.87/MMBtu, then bumped to $3.88 to $4.01/MMBtu on Friday. San Juan supplies roamed between $3.18 and $3.72 before snapping back to a low of $3.16/MMBtu by the end of the week.

At Topock, prices bravely clung to the $3.90 to $4.05/MMBtu range midweek before relenting. Prices dipped to a low of $3.86/MMBtu by Friday.

CityGate prices began the week at about $3.86 and elevated to $4.06/MMBtu on Tuesday. By week's end, trades were reported between $3.87 and $3.91/MMBtu. Malin premiums lolled between $3.80 and $3.86, then finished the week between $3.78 and $3.88/MMBtu.

AECO prices moved between $3.67 and $3.76 throughout the week, then retreated to about $3.61. According to reports, the Nova pipeline in Canada ratcheted down its tolerance late in the week as linepack exceeded system target levels, and prices appeared to drop accordingly [J. M.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of November 18-22, 2002
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 15.88-649.64 10.11-62.55
Mid-Columbia 25.5-33.25 22.25-29
COB 31-37 25-26
NP 15 33.5-42.5 25-32.5
SP 15 33.5-43.25 24-29.05
Palo Verde 28.25-35 19-24.25

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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