U.S. West power prices at record high as California eyes more outages

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(Reuters) - Electric prices in the U.S. West soared to record highs as California consumers prepared for more outages on Monday after the grid operator ordered utilities to cut power over the weekend to reduce system strain during a brutal heat wave.

PG&E Corp said more rotating outages were likely to occur in response to the California ISO’s ‘flex alert’ urging consumers to keep conserving electricity through at least Wednesday when the weather is expected to start to cool.

The California ISO, which operates the grid for much of the state, told utilities late Friday to start rotating outages that left more than 400,000 homes and businesses sweltering for about an hour each as air conditioning demand outstripped available generation resources.

The last time the ISO asked utilities to impose rotating outages was in 2001 when several energy companies were accused of manipulating the power market to cause prices to spike and electric supplies to run artificially short.

Rotating outages this weekend affected around 220,000 PG&E customers, over 130,000 customers of Edison International’s Southern California Edison and over 58,000 customers of Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric.

Meteorologists at AccuWeather forecast high temperatures would reach the 90s Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) in some of the biggest cities in California through the middle of the week. That is more than 10 degrees F higher than normal for this time of year.

The ISO forecast demand would reach 49,504 megawatts (MW) on Monday and 50,485 MW on Tuesday, which would top the grid’s all-time high of 50,270 MW set in 2006.

Power prices for Monday averaged a record $350.50 per megawatt hour (MWh) at the Palo Verde hub in Arizona and a near two-year high of $270.75 at SP-15 in the southern part of California, according to Refinitiv data going back to 2010.

The Intercontinental Exchange said prices for Tuesday averaged $1,400.50/MWh at Palo Verde and $595.09 at SP-15.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Paul Simao and Tom Brown