Rising natural gas costs and the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant bumped up wholesale electricity prices by 59 percent in California during the first half of 2013, compared to the same period last year.A recent report by the Energy Information Administration also noted a "large and unusual separation in power prices between the northern and southern parts of the state's electric system" because of the nuclear plant's absence. Faulty steam generators had kept San Onofre's two reactors offline for more than a year when Southern California Edison decided to shutter them permanently last month. On Wednesday, the utility announced the last fuel had been removed from unit 2 on July 18, allowing the plant to relinquish its operating licenses. Each unit provided roughly 1,100 megawatts to the Southern California grid, leaving power planners scrambling to make up for the shortfall.Gas prices rising off 10-year lows in 2012 led increases in average on-peak, day-ahead wholesale electricity prices across the lower 48 states, the EIA reported Tuesday. Spot gas prices in the first half of 2013 increased between 42 percent and 146 percent compared to the first half of 2012. Gas supply issues also drove disproportionately larger power price increases in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. In the latter, lower hydroelectric generation also helped contribute to an 82 percent year-over-year increase.
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