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Western Price Survey

November 27, 2013
Dry Winter Expected Across the West

This winter could be another dry one throughout the West, according to meteorologists, and it could be particularly dry in the Pacific Northwest.

California may be on pace to have the driest year on record. The January-November period is shaping up to be the driest recorded, according to Maury Roos, chief hydrologist with the California Department of Water Resources, "unless the Thanksgiving storm produces heavily."

Despite those statistics, Roos says it is early to worry about drought, since "normally about half our Northern California rain and snow comes in the three winter months."

Weather Services International Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford says there is "higher confidence for dry conditions in the Pacific Northwest" this winter.

Still, "while we do expect a third consecutive drier-than-normal winter this year, we do not expect it to be as dry as either of the last two winters," Crawford said.

The meteorologists call for a neutral winter, with neither La Niña nor El Niño conditions expected. Roos called the situation a "La Nada" winter.

Meanwhile, average Western peak-power prices gained nominally, up by 30 cents to $1.80 in the Nov. 22 to Nov. 27 trading period. Average prices for Western peak power ranged from $35.20 at Palo Verde to $45.55 at South of Path 15 by Nov. 27. Trades on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, will deliver on Dec. 2.

Working gas in storage was 3,776 Bcf as of Friday, Nov. 22, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 13 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 2.6 percent less than a year ago and 0.5 percent above the five-year average. Spot gas prices in the West are closely tracking Henry Hub values, which haven't moved much compared with last week. PG&E CityGate gas, which is approaching $4/MMBtu, continues to be the price-setter in the region (see chart).

What's ahead: The National Weather Service forecasts an increased probability of below-normal temperatures across the West the first week of December, with "the potential for record-breaking cold temperatures" in the Pacific Northwest. Southern California and Arizona expect precipitation through Dec. 10 [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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


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