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Western Price Survey / Archives

November 24, 2004
Outages, Possible Fuel-Supply Shortages Spark Concern in San Diego

(Please note: In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will not be a price report issued Friday, November 26)

San Diegans will likely get the holiday spirit sooner than the rest of California's residents if the weather in the southern region of the state persists. Freezing temperatures brought snow down to the 1,000 feet elevation in parts of that county over the weekend and frost advisories were in effect on Monday.

The unusual cold snap generated some energy-related difficulties for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas companies as well. As described in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council's daily system report, SoCal Gas reported "extreme gas capacity issues" in the San Diego area early Monday morning. The cold weather brought temperatures as low as 44 degrees Farenheit and had racheted up demand for natural gas for heating as well as electric generation.

The situation was made even more difficult by the continuing outage of a large non-gas-fired unit that usually supplies power to the southern half of the state. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's 1,122 MW Unit No. 2, which had tripped off line unexpectedly last Friday morning, remained down on Monday because of an electrical problem. Unit No. 3 at the facility was already off line for a scheduled refueling.

According to SDG&E spokesperson Ed Van Herik, the utility issued a "call for prudence" in energy use, reaching out to customers via mass-media outlets. The utility also requested electricity curtailments from participants in its voluntary demand-response programs.

No mandatory load-shedding was called for by the utility, but the California Independent System Operator issued a restricted-maintenance operations directive for generators south of Path 15 on Monday. In order to conserve natural-gas consumption in San Diego, some generation in the area was ramped down and the supply was replaced with imports from further north on the system.

"Monday was a little tight--on both power and gas--but coordination, cooperation and communication amongst the utilities there and the ISO helped keep service pretty seamless despite some significant challenges," remarked Cal-ISO spokesperson Gregg Fishman.

In addition to the SONGS unit, a number of other generating facilities located south of Path 15 were off line most of this week. AES' 332 MW No. 3 and 335 MW No. 4 units at Alamitos were on forced outages, as were the company's 178 MW No. 5 and 175 MW No. 6 units at Redondo. The 335 MW El Segundo No. 3 and the 245 MW Coolwater No. 4 facilities were also unavailable.

Warmer temperatures and the return of SONGS Unit No. 2 on Tuesday eased the supply constrains and operational challenges.

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday on the minds of traders, deals for power in the early part of this week were packaged for delivery in two-day increments--Monday trades were for Tuesday and Wednesday deliveries and Tuesday deals covered the Thursday-Saturday period. On Wednesday, packages were moving for delivery on Sunday and Monday.

The price for power throughout the West edged downward as the week wore on. After registering a high of 63 mills/MWh on Monday, peak power south of Path 15 attracted between 51.50 mills and 57.25 mills/KWh on Tuesday. Packages dealt that day were scheduled for delivery over the holiday period. Off-peak power traded in the mid forties this week.

In Northern California, spot-market power attracted a mill or two more than at SP15 but followed a similar pattern of losing ground as the week progressed.

Peak-time power prices in the Northwest were recorded in the mid forties, with low-demand power hovering close to 40 mills/KWh. California-Oregon border deliveries drew 54 mills/KWh at the beginning of the week, and shedding just a couple of mills in midweek trading [Shauna O'Donnell].

Holiday Trading Draws Gas Costs Down

The price of natural gas rebounded this week after last Friday's drop, with colder weather driving up demand. Gas deliveries at Topock hit $6.20/MMBtu on Monday after closing last week in the $4.50 vicinity. At the producing basins, gas costs ranged between $5.05 and $5.45/MMBtu at Permian and between $5.20 and $5.40/MMBtu at San Juan.

Still, expectations of lower demand during the holiday weekend dragged down prices on Wednesday. Gas deliveries scheduled for Thursday through Monday traded for anywhere from 10 to 75 cents lower the the previous day's transactions [S. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
November 22 - 26
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 29.88-208.18 10.49-51.83
Mid-Columbia 43-47.50 40-46.50
COB 48.25-54 44-48
NP 15 51-64.50 45.50-52
SP 15 48.75-63 40.50-48.50
Palo Verde 43.25-53.50 38.50-44.75

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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Contact Shauna O'Donnell, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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