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Western Price Survey

December 12, 2014
Storm Fails to Dent California Drought

Although the Dec. 11 West Coast storm seemed to pack a wallop, bringing much-needed rain to California, it was not enough to break the lingering drought, even coupled with other rain events this month.

"It was a nice big storm," said the California Department of Water Resources' Doug Carlson, "but it was not impressive in the big picture. We still need a lot more rain, a lot more reservoir increases."

For the drought to "end," the state would require 150 percent of normal rainfall by the end of the water year, which might be around 75 inches.

Northern California had five inches of rainfall with this storm, according to the National Weather Service, which takes an index of eight different measurement stations in the Sierra Nevada mountain range to obtain the total. These areas feed two of the state's major reservoirs.

The storm brought power outages throughout the Pacific Gas & Electric service area between Dec. 10 and Dec. 12, with 495,800 customers affected. By late Friday, power had been restored to 96 percent of those customers, according to the utility.

Apart from a 115 kV substation outage in San Francisco, "the storm has not affected the high-voltage grid or caused any high-voltage line outages," said Steven Greenlee, a Cal-ISO spokesman.

Meanwhile, Western peak power prices rose in Dec. 5 to Dec. 12 trading. Mid-Columbia added $3 to $32.40/MWh. By Dec. 12, average daytime prices ranged from $32.40 at Mid-C to $42.50 at SP15.

Off-peak prices moved nominally. SP15 eroded $1.10 to $35.90, while Mid-C was up $1.35 to $27.20. Average off-peak prices Friday ranged from $26.95 at Palo Verde to $35.90 at SP15.

Working gas in storage reached 3,359 Bcf as of Dec. 5 according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 51 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 5.2 percent less than a year ago and 9.5 percent less than the five-year average.

Natural gas values were mixed, with Henry Hub gas spot values up 12 cents since Dec. 4 to trade Dec. 11 at $3.67/MMBtu. Western natural gas prices varied, with Southern California Border adding 34 cents to $3.92 while Sumas led losers, down 15 cents to end at $3.25 Dec. 11.

What's ahead: Another series of storms is expected to hit the West Coast starting Dec. 15. This system should primarily affect southern Oregon and Northern California. The forecast for San Francisco calls for dry conditions beyond Dec. 21 [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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

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