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Western Price Survey

April 3, 2015
California Snowpack 'Virtually Gone'

The California snowpack is now "virtually gone" according to the Department of Water Resources. The state is now in its fourth drought year.

No snow was found in the Sierra Nevada at the agency's April 1 manual snowpack survey.

This is the first time since measurements began in 1941 that no snow was found at the Phillips snow course in early April. Previously, the lowest measurement at this point 90 miles east of Sacramento was 1.04 inches, recorded in 1988. The average snow depth at this time of year is 66.5 inches.

The California snowpack now has less water content than any April 1 measurement since 1950, with 1.4 inches of water content. This is 5 percent of the historical average of 28.3 inches for April 1. Previously, the low for the date was 25 percent, recorded in 2014 and 1977.

Historically, the snowpack peaks in early April before it starts melting to supply California with roughly 30 percent of its water needs. This year most precipitation fell as rain, thanks to warmer weather.

Working gas in storage reached 1,461 Bcf as of March 27 according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 18 Bcf from the previous week.

Western natural gas values generally fell 9 to 22 cents in Wednesday-to-Wednesday trading. Malin natural gas lost 22 cents to hit $2.24/MMBtu by April 2.

Western power prices varied in March 27 to April 2 trading, with Mid-Columbia peak values adding $4.20 and ending at $20.65/MWh Thursday. South of Path 15 lost $2.75, ending at $28.65/MWh. Average daytime prices ranged from $20.65/MWh at Mid-Columbia to $32.50/MWh at North of Path 15.

Northwest hubs' nighttime power values saw a sharp uptick by as much as $12/MWh after strong hydro generation at the Bonneville Power Administration sent Mid-Columbia prices to an average price of $0.25/MWh Monday.

California solar generation reached another record with a high of 5,906 MW, recorded March 28. This surpasses the March 25 peak of 5,849 MW.

Western natural gas prices as a whole were significantly less in March 2015 compared to last year. Average Western power prices during March 2015 were also lower (see "Price Trends" on next page).

What's next: Some rain is possible across the West Coast next week, with some showers forecast for California. "It's not a drought breaker, but at this point we'll take any rainfall and Sierra snow pack we can get," noted the National Weather Service [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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


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