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Denver — More than 13,000 technicians were mobilized Aug. 26 to prepare to restore power to the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast target area of Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with wind speeds up to 140 mph and a storm surge extending as far as 30 miles inland from the coast.

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Power demand forecasts have been edging downward during the week for the three main independent system operators likely to be affected: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Midcontinent ISO and Southwest Power Pool. Collectively, the average daily peakload forecast for this week was down by 1.6% on Aug. 26, compared with Aug. 24 forecast.

Power prices have been mixed during the week starting Aug. 23, with some traders reacting more to natural gas increases related to storm-related production decreases than to expectations for significantly lighter loads.

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For example, ERCOT Houston Hub day-ahead on-peak power for delivery Aug. 27 was trading around $48.50/MWh, up from about $34.50/MWh for delivery Aug. 26 on the Intercontinental Exchange. The balance-of-week package was bid at $58.55/MWh and offered at $68/MWh.

MISO's Louisiana and Texas hubs had no trading on ICE Aug. 26, but their day-ahead on-peak LMPs settled at $32.31/MWh and $55.87/MWh for delivery Aug. 26, which was up by 23.2% and 101.6% on the day, respectively.

However, Houston Ship Channel spot gas, which had been trading up about 8.6% to around $2.51/MMBtu for delivery Aug. 26 was trading lower to about $2.30/MMBtu for delivery Aug. 27, on the news of lower LNG feedgas deliveries.

Restoration efforts

The power company with the most territory in the hurricane's forecast cone is Entergy, which has utilities on either side of the Sabine River border between Louisiana and Texas. The company has more than 9,800 people, arriving from 20 states, in place to deal with the power system damage.

"If Laura damages facilities, it could take time to make repairs ... before we become fully engaged in restoration," an Aug. 26 Entergy news release stated. "We have prepared our power generating plants in the Beaumont, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana areas for the effects of Laura, including mitigating for high winds, torrential rain and flooding. Our plant teams have conducted walkdowns, verified communications systems and secured any loose equipment that could be impacted by high winds."

Another area likely to be affected is Cleco, which serves customers in central and eastern Louisiana. The utility has about 1,900 people, including about 1,400 contractors, to help with service restoration, according to an Aug. 25 news release.

Southwestern Electric Power Company, a unit of American Electric Power, has more than 1,600 people, including more than 1,000 contractors, ready to clear away debris and restore service in the areas of Arkansas, East Texas and Louisiana that might be affected by the storm.

Memories of Ike

CenterPoint Energy, which primarily serves the Houston region, did not enumerate how many of workers it has put on standby for the storm, which was forecast to make landfall east of its service area. Nevertheless, CenterPoint advised customers to plan to go without electricity for as much as two weeks.

"We continue to monitor activation and accessibility of all internal and external resources for our response; we are also continuing preparation and readiness for mutual assistance support," spokeswoman Alejandra Diaz said Aug. 26. "We have resources on standby and we're engaged in conversations with mutual assistance networks and will finalize our mutual assistance numbers once we have an opportunity to assess damage. After [2008's] Hurricane Ike, we had 11,000 resources from as far away as Canada."