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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
December 7, 2012
Rains Dampen Northwest Power Prices

Recent rains in the Pacific Northwest accelerated hydro production, dampening Northwestern power prices.

Since Friday, Nov. 30, California-Oregon Border peak prices dropped about $7.35 to $24.45/MWh, while Mid-Columbia daytime prices lost about $4.45, finishing at $23.45/MWh.

Off-peak prices at both hubs also dropped a few dollars over the Nov. 30 to Dec. 7 trading period, with each hub finishing a bit below $20/MWh (see table).

Hydro generation at the Bonneville Power Administration exceeded 11,600 MW on average during heavy load hours both Dec. 5 and 6, according to Kevin Wingert, a BPA spokesman. Generation exceeding 11,500 MW on average during heavy load hours typically happens once every three years, making recent conditions "not typical, but not entirely atypical either," he said. Hydro generation reached a peak of 13,122 MW Dec. 6.

BPA wind generation has seen periodic peaks, with the most recent peak an hourly average of 4,168 MW on Dec. 5. The current BPA record is an hourly average of 4,273 MW that occurred between 5 and 6 a.m. on Oct. 16.

In the Cal-ISO area, wind peaked at more than 2,000 MW this week while solar peaked at 767 MW, most of it from photovoltaic power plants.

Above-average precipitation and milder temperatures in the U.S. portion of the Columbia River Basin contributed to greater amounts of water flowing through the watershed. At elevations of 6,000 feet or less, said Wingert, all the precipitation is falling as rain. Snowpack in the U.S. is generally occurring at elevations greater than 7,000 feet, while in the Canadian basin, "we're looking at good snowpack" occurring at 5,000 feet, he said.

Wingert added that roughly average water conditions are forecast for the Columbia Basin from January through July 2013. About 1.061 million acre-feet of water is anticipated during that period.

Here's how average peak prices at other Western hubs fared since last Friday:

  • North of Path 15: Traded Friday at roughly $36.15/MWh; posted no trades the previous Friday.
  • South of Path 15: Dropped 35 cents to $40.85.
  • Palo Verde: Gained 80 cents to $31.90/MWh.

Western off-peak prices lost between 85 cents (Palo Verde) and $4.70 (COB) over the Friday-to-Friday trading period. Prices ranged from about $18.50/MWh at Mid-C to roughly $28.70 at SP15.

Working gas in storage reached 3,804 Bcf as of Friday, Nov. 30, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 73 Bcf from the previous week. This is only the third withdrawal this season and the largest to date, according to the agency. Storage levels are now 0.9 percent less than a year ago and 4.6 percent above the five-year average.

Henry Hub natural gas lost 13 cents since Nov. 30, trading at $3.33/MMBtu Dec. 7. Western natural gas prices varied, with both PG&E CityGate and Malin adding 7 cents, trading at $3.91/MMBtu and $3.53/MMBtu, respectively. Southern California Border shed 2 cents to $3.52/MMBtu by Friday.

What's ahead: The National Weather Service extended forecast calls for an increased probability of below-normal temperatures for the Western U.S. between Dec. 13 and Dec. 21 [Linda Dailey Paulson].


Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: December 3 - 7, 2012
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 14.68-622.10 10.57-39.24
Mid-Columbia 21.25-28.50 13-22
COB 24-32 17.25-24
NP 15* 34-37.25 22.25-26.25
SP 15* 36.50-44.25 23.25-29.25
Palo Verde 30-32.75 22-27

* 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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