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Western Price Survey

February 9, 2018
Heat Prompts Runoff; Energy Prices Fall

Warm Western weather appears to be triggering early runoff of what little accumulated snowpack exists to date.

“This year we’re wondering what happened to winter,” the California Department of Water Resources wrote in a Feb. 8 water supply bulletin.

The statewide snowpack has a 4.4-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 23 percent of the Feb. 8 average, according to the agency.

The greatest runoff rate to date is occurring in the North Lahontan region of the eastern Sierra Nevada, where the current runoff is 134 percent of the water-year average. Dry weather to date has meant major western Sierra Nevada rivers are flowing at less than half of average rates, according to the department. With more of the same weather forecast over the next week or two, “there does not appear to be much reason for the runoff to increase anytime soon.”

Power demand on the California Independent System Operator grid reached 28,816 MW Feb. 7, which was the week’s high.

Farther north, the Bonneville Power Administration on Feb. 6 recorded a hydro peak of 13,828 MW. Wind production reached 3,824 MW Feb. 4. Demand at the Bonneville Power Administration ranged from roughly 5,000 MW to about 7,630 MW throughout the week.

Working natural gas in storage was 2,078 Bcf as of Feb. 2, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net decrease of 119 Bcf compared to the previous week and a greater withdrawal than analysts estimated. Storage levels are now 19.5 percent less than a year ago and 15.9 percent less than the five-year average.

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Domestic natural gas use rose 13 percent compared to the previous week, according to the EIA. Natural gas used for power generation increased 9 percent week over week.

Despite this, California natural gas use decreased and prices declined, according to the agency, “as average temperatures increased.”

Henry Hub natural gas spot prices fell 34 cents in the Feb. 1 to Feb. 8 trading period, ending at $2.71/MMBtu.

Western natural gas prices fluctuated throughout the trading period. Southern California Border natural gas managed to gain 8 cents to reach $2.31/MMBtu, while Sumas dropped 23 cents to $1.91/MMBtu in Thursday-to-Thursday trading.

Western average power prices tumbled, with Mid-Columbia posting the greatest losses. Daytime power values at the hub dropped $9.45 to end at $10.75/MWh in trading, while nighttime prices—which traded in a range from $2.90/MWh to $18.25/MWh throughout the week—ultimately fell $14.90 to $3.35/MWh.

By Feb. 8, Western peak power traded in a range from $10.75/MWh at Mid-C to $28.20/MWh at South of Path 15.
–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.

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Contact Mavis Scanlon, editor with questions regarding Price Survey content.

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