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Western Price Survey

May 1, 2015
West Will Likely Lean on Natural Gas This Summer

The California Department of Water Resources canceled its formal snow survey scheduled for May 1, as there was no snow at the survey site.

The electronic survey shows the California snowpack has 0.5 inches of water content, 3 percent of the historical average of 16.6 inches for April 30.

"We can't count on the Sierra snowpack to replenish our water supplies," stated Mark Cowin, the agency's director. "Major reservoirs are dropping at a time when they typically would be filling with melted snow."

The snowpack normally peaks in early April, supplying the state with 30 percent of its water. Roughly 47 percent of the state is experiencing exceptional drought status as of April 28, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is an increase of 6 percent compared to March 31.

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"Although drought in the western United States has reduced the level of water available for hydroelectric generation in California, the current water levels in the Pacific Northwest are near average," noted the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Spring rain helped the Pacific Northwest maintain hydro generation through April; however, the agency forecasts reduced hydropower generation this summer and increased natural gas-fired generation.

Even during the first four weeks of April, natural gas used for power generation in the Pacific Northwest averaged 477 MMcf/d, triple the year-ago level, according to the EIA. The year-over-year increase was 319 MMcf/d.

Meanwhile, working gas in storage reached 1,710 Bcf as of April 24, according to EIA estimates, a net increase of 81 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 76.5 percent greater than a year ago and 4.2 percent less than the five-year average.

Western natural gas prices rose nominally in Thursday-to-Thursday trading, adding between 1 and 4 cents by April 30.

Western peak power prices varied in April 24 to May 1 trading. Pacific Northwest hubs were the big gainers, with California-Oregon Border and Mid-Columbia peak rising $8/MWh between Thursday and Friday to $33 and $27.89/MWh, respectively. Off-peak values at COB and Mid-C also jumped, with COB gaining $8 to around $21/MWh and Mid-C jumping $7 to $25.06 [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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