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Western Price Survey

March 28, 2014
Hydro Drops Northwest Power Prices

Although the first water and snow surveys of 2014 initially showed low precipitation in the Pacific Northwest, early river flows and recent precipitation continue depressing regional power prices.

Northwest peak-power prices plummeted roughly $19/MWh in the March 20 to March 27 trading period. Hydro production -- between roughly 11,000 MW and 14,000 MW in the Bonneville Power Administration area during the week -- was augmented with an uptick in wind production in the Northwest. Wind generation reached roughly 4,000 MW in BPA territory on March 27 in the late afternoon.

Meanwhile, renewable-energy production in Cal-ISO's service territory has also been strong, peaking past 7,700 MW this week and helped by the coincident production of wind and solar power.

The only Western hub to post a gain in the trading period was Palo Verde, which gained 50 cents on average (see chart). By March 27, average peak-power prices ranged from $16.20/MWh at Mid-C to $46.65 at North of Path 15.

Off-peak prices fared little better, with Northwest values falling by as much as $11.40 at the California-Oregon border while SP15 and Palo Verde lost a dollar or two. Average nighttime prices March 27 ranged from $2.50/MWh at Mid-C to $38 at California hubs.

Meanwhile, working gas in storage reached 896 Bcf as of Friday, March 21, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 57 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 50.1 percent less than a year ago and 50.8 percent less than the five-year average.

Henry Hub natural gas moved slightly higher in the trading period, up 3 cents since last Thursday to trade March 27 at $4.39/MMBtu. Average natural gas prices at Western hubs ended the week mixed. El Paso-Permian added 5 cents to $4.31/MMBtu, while Stanfield dropped 5 cents to $4.42 (see table). Opal traded even during the period.

The March 28 California snow survey shows the statewide snowpack water equivalent is now 7.3 inches, which is about 26 percent of average for this time of year, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 28,672 MW March 24, which should prove the week's high. Northwest Power Pool demand reached 52,882 MW that same day.

What's ahead: The National Weather Service said above-normal temperatures and precipitation are likely from Washington into Northern California April 2 through 10. Both Southern California and Arizona are forecast to have below-normal precipitation during that same period [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 Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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