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Western Price Survey

March 20, 2015
Drought Persists, Yet BPA Hydro OK

Drought conditions should continue unabated in California and Oregon into the spring, according to a new forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although El Niño conditions have returned to the West Coast, they are too weak and too late to help California.

"Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought relief in California this winter and prospects for above-average temperatures this spring may make the situation worse," stated Jon Gottschalck of NOAA in a March 19 forecast.

Western Washington is expected to enter into drought conditions in April; however, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought for three areas of the state March 13 based on record-low snowpack.

Despite this, Bonneville Power Administration hydro generation should remain unaffected, according to agency spokesman Michael Hansen.

"There is a drought situation that people are dealing with, but this is different than the situation with snowpack and hydropower," he said. "As it stands right now, we are doing fine from a hydropower standpoint." The possibility remains, he said, that the situation could change this spring.

In California, the statewide snow-water equivalent as of March 17 was 3.6 inches, or 12 percent of average. This is a drop of 1.1 inches since March 12.

Working gas in storage reached 1,467 Bcf as of March 13, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 45 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 52.8 percent greater than a year ago and 13.3 percent less than the five-year average.

There have been four weeks of larger-than-average withdrawals, according to the agency.

Henry Hub gas spot values added 2 cents since March 12 to trade March 19 at $2.84/MMBtu. Western natural gas prices rose between 4 and 9 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading. Stanfield and Sumas each gained 9 cents to reach $2.43/MMBtu and $2.38/MMBtu, respectively.

Western peak power prices generally lost a few dollars by March 20 in Friday-to-Friday trading. Palo Verde proved the exception with prices -- for both peak and off-peak power -- that were relatively static. Average daytime prices ranged from $17.30/MWh at Mid-Columbia to $31.15/MWh at South of Path 15 [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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


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