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Western Price Survey

March 23, 2018
Recent Storms Bolster California Runoff, Snowpack

Some river runoff levels in California’s Sierra Nevada are near average levels, thanks to early March storms that also increased the state’s snowpack.

Precipitation amounts have been above average, but “not abnormal,” according to the California Department of Water Resources. A total of 11.8 inches of precipitation has been measured in the San Joaquin region, the greatest amount among the three regions tracked by DWR for the month through March 22.

The statewide snowpack has a 14.4-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 52 percent of the March 22 average. The statewide snow-water equivalent has increased 8.7 inches since March 1.

Hydro generation on the California Independent System Operator grid reached 3,168 MW March 21, which was less than that generated around the same time last year, during a very rainy season.

Working natural gas in storage was 1,446 Bcf as of March 16, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 86 Bcf compared to the previous week. Storage levels are now 31.6 percent less than a year ago and 18.5 percent less than the five-year average.

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Should net withdrawals continue to keep pace with the five-year average rate, the EIA estimates the amount of working natural gas in storage at the end of the 2017-2018 heating season will be at roughly 1,373 Bcf. This would be the second-lowest level on record since 2010. The record low was set at the end of the 2013-2014 heating season, when there was 837 Bcf of natural gas in storage.

There was no net change to Pacific region natural gas stocks during the report period. Regional natural gas in storage remains 169 Bcf.

Henry Hub gas spot prices shed 5 cents in the trading period, ending at $2.62/MMBtu.

Western natural gas prices generally moved between 4 cents and as much as 22 cents lower in March 15 to March 22 trading. El Paso-Permian Basin gas dropped the most, down 22 cents to $1.52/MMBtu. Southern California CityGate proved the exception, gaining 42 cents to end at $3.66/MMBtu.

Western peak power values varied. Both North and South of Path 15 prices posted gains, with SP15 up $12.30 to $40.95/MWh. Mid-Columbia lost $6.05 to reach $17/MWh by March 22.

Off-peak power values eroded as much as $4.35 in trading. Mid-Columbia dropped $4.35 to $15.80/MWh. By March 22, prices ranged from $15.80/MWh at Mid-C to $26.80/MWh at NP15.

CAISO demand reached 27,582 MW March 20. Renewables generation was 12,574 MW March 16, supplying roughly 46.4 percent of demand. The installed capacity for renewable generation across the grid is now roughly 21,668 MW; solar accounts for about half that total. –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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