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Western Price Survey

December 13, 2013
California Sets Solar Production Record

With warmer weather setting in, Western power prices tumbled from recent cold-prompted highs.

Average peak-power prices at Northwest hubs fell roughly $30 in the Dec. 6 to Dec.13 trading period (see chart). By Dec. 13, average prices for Western peak power ranged between $42.20/MWh at Palo Verde and $58.60 at the California-Oregon Border.

Off-peak power prices experienced similar movement, losing between roughly $12.15 and $38.20 in Friday-to-Friday trading.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 33,444 MW Dec. 9, which should be the week's high. Northwest Power Pool demand was 64,753 MW that same day.

A new record was set Dec. 10 as 2,806 MW of solar power was produced in California, according to Cal-ISO. The previous official solar record of 2,759 MW was set on Sept. 16.

These records will continue to be broken, according to the grid operator. "Solar and wind interconnections are steadily increasing -- especially wind -- so this does account for new production records that will continue to rise as new renewables come on line to meet the renewables portfolio standard of 33 percent by 2020," said Cal-ISO spokesman Steven Greenlee. Another factor is that higher solar-production days are often days on which there are fewer particulates in the air or less haze, which increases the capacity factors.

Working gas in storage reached 3,533 Bcf as of Friday, Dec. 6, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 81 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 7.2 percent less than a year ago and 3 percent less than the five-year average. The Western region saw a 26 Bcf withdrawal during the agency's report period.

Henry Hub natural gas spot prices gained 42 cents since last Thursday, trading Dec. 12 at an average of $4.40/MMBtu. Western prices ended the trading period higher, with PG&E CityGate spot prices up 36 cents to an average of $4.76/MMBtu and Southern California Border gas adding 30 cents to $4.72. Prices fell back to $4.65 and $4.55, respectively, by Friday as forecasts called for warmer weather in the West.

At the Sumas hub serving the Pacific Northwest, spot prices jumped from $4.87/MMBtu on Dec. 5 to $10.91 the next day "because of regional storage constraints and freeze-offs in Rockies production," noted the EIA. Average Sumas prices fell back to $4.55 by the end of the trading period.

What's ahead: The National Weather Service forecasts an increased probability of above-normal temperatures for Southern California and Arizona from Dec. 18 to 26. Temperatures in Washington should fall below seasonal norms between Dec. 20 and 26 [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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.

Please contact with questions or comments about this site.

Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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