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Western Price Survey

May 26, 2017
Warm Temperatures Quicken Runoff

Hydro generation may peak in the week ahead as warm weather accelerates runoff throughout the western United States.

“With the first real heat wave of the spring occurring during the past week, snow water content dropped by about 7 inches as the snow melt process is in full effect,” said the California Department of Water Resources in a May 23 bulletin. “The snowpack in all regions has finally dropped below the expected April 1 total.”

California’s statewide snowpack now has a 22-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 198 percent of the May 26 average. Most state rivers had increased runoff; however, the peak melt dates in the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada are expected the first few days of June, according to the California-Nevada River Forecast Center.

Farther north, Chelan County Public Utility District of Washington reports runoff into Lake Chelan increased due to rapid snowmelt during the past week. The lake is filling at a faster rate than usual but is still within its normal operating range, the district said.

After fluctuating throughout the week, Western peak power prices lost between $2.30 and as much as $4.50 in May 19 to 26 trading. South of Path 15 lost $4.50, ending at $38.95/MWh.

There were sharp price movements again this week. Between May 25 and 26, hubs saw a single-day spike of roughly $9.50 to $19.75. California-Oregon Border moved from $17.25 to $37/MWh, for example. Despite the boost, it still lost $2.30 in Friday-to-Friday trading.

In its only trade of the week, North of Path 15 peak power posted an average price of $52.35 May 22. This was a $26.30 increase compared to its previous trade of $26.05/MWh, posted May 12.

Off-peak power movements varied. Pacific Northwest hubs added between $5.50 and $6, while Palo Verde values shed 50 cents. Mid-Columbia nighttime power added the most, up $6 to $10.50/MWh by May 26.

Meanwhile, working natural gas in storage was 2,444 Bcf as of May 19, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net increase of 75 Bcf compared to the previous week.

Storage levels are now 13.2 percent less than a year ago and 10.9 percent greater than the five-year average.

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Demand was flat week over week, despite a 5 percent increase in the amount of natural gas used for power generation. An average of 56.5 Bcf/day was used during the EIA’s report week.

Henry Hub gas spot values shed 7 cents between May 18 and May 25 to end at $3.06/MMBtu.

Western natural gas prices added between 8 cents and 16 cents in trading.

CAISO demand peaked at 36,021 MW May 22. Northwest Power Pool demand reached 58,137 MW the following day. Total renewable generation on the CAISO grid during the week reached 14, 434 MW May 25. Solar generation reached 9,881 MW May 19, while thermal generation peaked at 16,385 MW May 22.
–Linda Dailey Paulson

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

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