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Western Price Survey

May 15, 2015
Low Gas Prices Spur Power Use

Natural gas prices, which have struggled to break the $3/MMBtu mark in recent months, have led to increased use of gas for power generation, according to a new U.S. Energy Information Administration report.

"Low natural gas prices in recent months have significantly increased the use of natural gas rather than coal for electricity generation," the EIA said in its Short-Term Energy Outlook, released May 12.

Natural gas use in April and May "will almost reach the level of coal generation, resulting in the closest convergence in generation shares between the two fuels since April 2012," notes the EIA.

Monthly average spot prices for natural gas should remain below $3/MMBtu through August, which the EIA attributes to continued abundant production and inventories.

Working gas in storage reached 1,897 Bcf as of May 8, according to EIA estimates, a net increase of 111 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 65.7 percent greater than a year ago and 2 percent less than the five-year average.

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Henry Hub gas spot values rose 9 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading, ending at $2.87/MMBtu May 14. Western natural gas prices added between 1 and 12 cents. The Malin and El Paso-Permian natural gas hubs posted the greatest gains, up 12 cents in trading, ending at $2.73 and $2.66/MMBtu, respectively.

Meanwhile, Northwestern peak power prices dropped in May 8 to May 15 trading. Mid-Columbia posted the greatest losses, falling $7.15 to $27.25/MWh by Friday. Average daytime prices ranged from $24.55 at Palo Verde to $31.60/MWh at South of Path 15.

Peak demand on the Cal-ISO grid reached 29,321 MW May 11, which should be the week's high.

The grid operator reported total renewables production reached 9,156 MW May 12. Renewables data for May 14 was not available due to technical issues, according to Cal-ISO.

The California snowpack now has 0.3 inches of snow-water content as of May 15. There are now only 15 snow sensors reporting any readings. According to the California Department of Water Resources, "most of these are nearly dry."

The Columbia Generating Station went off line May 9 for scheduled refueling and maintenance, concluding a record 683 continuous days of operation, its longest operational run [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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

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