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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
December 21, 2007
Peak Prices Fall in Last-Minute Shopping for Megawatt-Hours

Sung to the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer":

Peak prices got run over by some reindeer,
Trading just before the holiday,
But off-peak values went a-rising,
For the nighttime wholesale charges that we pay.

Traders had been drinking too much eggnog,
And we begged them not to bid,
Guess they couldn't see the numbers,
As they swapped the megawatt-hours on the grid.

If the song didn't tell you, wholesale prices for daytime power plunged this week as traders focused on the approaching Christmas holidays and forecasts of warmer weather for some parts of the country next week. Sagging natural gas prices also helped bring down prices, as did heavy rains that swelled reservoirs.

Cooler nighttime temperatures, however, pushed up off-peak prices this week and sent them soaring.

Wholesale power traded in two-day blocks this week. On Thursday, power was sold for Sunday and Monday. Deliveries for Tuesday and Wednesday traded Friday.

At the California-Oregon border, peak-power prices slipped from around $70/MWh on Monday to about $62 on Friday. Off-peak power dipped around $6 on Tuesday to an average of $47.96, but then roared to a close of $53.75/MWh.

The Mid-Columbia hub gave back $7 to close at an average of $59.38/MWh for daytime power this week. Night power tried to stage a recovery above its Monday price of $52.69, adding as much as $2, but ended the week at $51.83/MWh.

North of Path 15 prime-power prices took a vacation and slid $8 to close at an average of $63.77/MWh. Off-prime power finished at $56.52/MWh.

South of Path 15, peak values steadily plunged from $71.98/MWh on Monday to $64.05 on Friday. Off-peak prices did the reverse, climbing from $50.33/MWh to $56.68.

In Arizona, Palo Verde's daytime power lost $4 to close out at $56.51/MWh. Nighttime electricity inched up $6 to end the week at $51.36/MWh.

What's Ahead: Washington and Oregon will not get a break from a long string of storms arriving from the Pacific Ocean, mostly generated by La Niña (see CEM No. 952 [15]). Portland and Seattle residents had better keep their umbrellas handy because starting tonight, rain is back in the forecast with highs in the mid-40s.

Californians will have a better holiday week. San Francisco will enjoy partly sunny weather through Christmas, with temperatures in the high 50s. It's back to sunny skies in Southern California, with Angelenos and Palm Springs residents basking in temperatures that will reach into the high 60s. Phoenix, on the other hand, will see cooler weather, with a high of 61 degrees and partly cloudy skies.

Most nuclear power plants are generating at full capacity, except for two units in Arizona and California. At the Palo Verde generating station, Unit No. 3, which can produce up to 1,247 MW, is off line for routine maintenance and will remain so for the rest of the year. San Onofre's 1,070 MW second unit will come back on line in a month after fuel replacement and routine maintenance are completed [Kristina Shevory].

Gas Values Nosedive Despite Draw

Natural gas supplies shrank last week as the Northeast battled snowstorms and freezing temperatures. Nationwide, natural gas in storage slipped 121 Bcf to 3.173 Tcf last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.

In the West, the drop was more modest, with stockpiles heading down 22 Bcf to 431 Bcf. Still, there is a little more than 1 percent more natural gas than last year and 11 percent more than the five-year average.

The storage report will be delayed one day next week to Friday because the federal government will be closed in observance of Christmas.

Despite the drawdown, the holidays and a forecast for rising temperatures for some areas of the country next week led to easing prices. Values rose through Tuesday, hitting a high of $7.29/MMBtu at Malin before promptly reversing course.

From Tuesday through Friday, prices lost from 10 cents to 20 cents at each of the hubs and closed out the week in the mid-$6 to low $7 range [K. S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: December 17 - 21, 2007
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 34.71-488.20 15.92-55.47
Mid-Columbia 61.50-68 46-56.50
COB 59-70 47-57
NP 15 57.35-73 49.25-59
SP 15 57.50-73.50 49-59
Palo Verde 54.50-65 43.50-53.25

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.

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