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Platinum - Special Report

Held (Hydro) Breath

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The month of May is a crucial one for the hydro system in the Pacific Northwest as it typically marks the transition point each spring when river flows see a rapid shift and sizable increase that spills over into hydro production in the region.  Temperatures rise high enough to start to accelerate the melt of the snowpack that starts to come off some time in April while precipitation remains a significant factor until a month or two later into the summer.  We saw a prime example of May hydro excitement last year as a cool March and April rolled into a rapidly warming May and the bulk of the April-July snow water showed up all at once, pushing hydro generation all the way up from around 9 GW at the end of April to close to 21 GW in just a couple of weeks.  This spring the MW were slow to show up in May and folks in the Northwest were left holding their breath for hydro.

Figure 1 | Daily Average Hydro Generation (MW)

With hydro output this May lagging behind past years, the arrival of the spring hydro boost was delayed further over the weekend, even with warmer temperatures bringing snow off the mountains.  This special report delves into the factors surrounding PNW hydro's delayed rise this May and what has changed.

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