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Western Price Survey

May 2, 2014
Power Prices Remain Low, but Parched Summer Lies Ahead for California

Despite a small jump midweek on a mini heat wave, Western energy prices started May generally lower.

Since April 25, Western power prices moved lower with peak prices falling between $6.40 and about $9/MWh. Palo Verde was the exception, adding 70 cents to reach $42.30 in Friday-to-Friday trading. By May 2, average peak prices ranged from $33/MWh at Mid-Columbia to $46.20/MWh at South of Path 15.

Off-peak prices also moved lower, led by Northwestern hubs, which dropped about $17 on average. By May 2, nighttime prices ranged from $6.50/MWh at Mid-C to $37/MWh at SP15.

Working gas in storage reached 981 Bcf as of April 25, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a jump of 82 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 44.6 percent less than a year ago and 50.1 percent below the five-year average.

Henry Hub natural gas values lost 3 cents since last Thursday, trading May 1 at $4.78/MMBtu. Western prices generally moved lower during the week, with Stanfield dropping 17 cents to $4.58/MMBtu and Sumas losing 15 cents to $4.56/MMBtu. Southern California Border gas was up a cent to $4.89 and PG&E CityGate stayed even at $5.30.

U.S. supplies are flat, with natural gas production down slightly and imports increasing, according to the EIA; the uptick in imports was attributed to Western demand. Operations at the Opal Hub, which suffered a fire, have restarted, which should resolve lingering supply issues.

In its final snow survey of the year, the California Department of Water Resources reported that as of May 1, the statewide snow-water equivalent was at 4 inches, or 18 percent of normal for this date.

"California's reservoirs obviously will not be significantly replenished by a melting snowpack this spring and summer," stated the agency. "With most of the wet season behind us, it is highly unlikely late-season storms will significantly dampen the effects of the three-year drought on parched farms or communities struggling to provide drinking water."

Last year Cal-ISO derated hydropower production by more than 1,000 MW. This year's derate will appear in the grid operator's forthcoming summer assessment.

After soaring heat across the West -- the Portland metro area saw record highs and Southern California temperatures climbed into the 90s on May 1 -- temperatures have started dropping. Starting May 5, Portland will see daytime highs in the mid-60s, Seattle will be around 60, and Southern California highs retreat into the 70s [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.

Please contact with questions or comments about this site.

Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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