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Western Price Survey

August 14, 2015
Dry California Water Year Ahead?

A new water year starts Oct. 1, but opinion is divided as to whether it will be dry or wet.

There is a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño conditions will continue through the coming winter, according to the latest National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center report.

Despite the buzz, the weather phenomenon will likely not bring enough precipitation to California.

"California cannot count on potential El Niño conditions to halt or reverse drought conditions," said Michael Anderson, state climatologist, in an Aug. 13 statement. "Historical weather data shows us that at best, there is a 50/50 chance of having a wetter winter. Unfortunately, due to shifting climate patterns, we cannot even be that sure."

California Department of Water Resources historical analysis shows that of the seven years since 1950 with similar El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signals, only three were wet years, one was average, and three were dry. ENSO is a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern occurring when there are warmer-than-normal temperatures and with the potential to bring wetter weather across the West.

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According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California amassed a "rain debt" of roughly 20 inches between 2012 and 2015, which is the equivalent of a year's worth of rain.

Meanwhile, average prices for peak electricity in the West jumped between $5.05 and $8 in the trading week, with North of Path 15 up $8 to $42.25/MWh by Aug. 14. Average daytime prices ranged from $35 at Mid-Columbia to $44.65/MWh at South of Path 15.

Nighttime power prices varied, with Palo Verde up $3.65 to $29.75/MWh, while Mid-C values eroded $1.20 to $22.55/MWh (see chart).

Working gas in storage reached 2,977 Bcf as of Aug. 7, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net increase of 65 Bcf from the previous week.

Henry Hub gas spot values rose 16 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading, ending at $2.92/MMBtu Aug. 13. Western natural gas prices added between 10 and 18 cents in trading.

Total renewables on the Cal-ISO grid reached 10,319 MW Aug. 7. Solar-power production reached a record peak of 6,294 MW on Aug. 10, surpassing the 6,282 MW high recorded July 15. A new instantaneous solar peak of 6,330 MW was set Aug. 12, which was a mere megawatt higher than the 6,329 MW July 15 record [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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


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

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