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Western Price Survey

May 12, 2017
Record Hydro Will Help This Summer

The California Independent System Operator projects it has adequate reserves available to meet this summer’s forecast demands, despite potential natural gas curtailments from continued limits on Aliso Canyon operations (see story at [8.1]).

This year is on track to have near-record hydro generation, and the ISO expects above-average amounts of hydro available for use this summer, thanks to abundant snowpack and plentiful rains.

In California, the statewide snowpack has a 32.7-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 187 percent of the May 11 average, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The Northern Sierras have recorded 93.1 inches of precipitation for the water year to date.

Conditions may mirror those of 2011, which had the highest amount of hydro generation in 10 years, according to CAISO; however, the report did not specify what that figure was.

CAISO expects 52,785 MW of net qualifying capacity, which it defines as the amount of capacity deliverable even when transmission may be constrained, to be available. This will primarily be natural gas-fueled generation, but also includes 14.2 percent hydro and 13.7 percent solar.

Western peak power prices generally trended lower by 50 cents to as much as $6.40 in May 5 to 12 trading. North of Path 15 lost $6.40 to end up at $26.05/MWh, while Mid-Columbia daytime power proved the exception, up $1.75 to $17.45/MWh.

Off-peak power trades saw hubs adding between 15 cents and $1.70. South of Path 15, however, shed $2.45 to hit $21.75/MWh by May 12.

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Meanwhile, working natural gas in storage was 2,301 Bcf as of May 5, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net increase of 45 Bcf compared to the previous week.

Storage levels are now 13.9 percent less than a year ago and 13.6 percent greater than the five-year average.

Net storage additions also fell to 3 Bcf less than the five-year average, likely as a result of Aliso Canyon restrictions.

Henry Hub gas spot values added 12 cents to end at $3.20/MMBtu between May 4 and May 11. Western natural gas prices followed suit, adding between 8 cents and 17 cents in trading. PG&E CityGate posted the greatest gains, ending at $3.48/MMBtu May 11.

CAISO demand peaked at 29,472 MW May 9.

The Western nuclear fleet is either currently refueling or in preparation for refueling and maintenance. The 1,190 MW Columbia Generating Station in eastern Washington was operating at 71 percent of capacity May 12, when it began shutdown procedures in advance of going off line May 13 for a 40-day refueling outage.

Units now wholly off line include Diablo Canyon Unit 1, which went off line starting April 24, and Palo Verde Unit 2, which has been off line since April 8. –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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