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California drought leads to increased natural gas generation

LNG Industry,

The drought in California is continuing to increase in severity, resulting in less hydropower and increased natural gas generation.

In January 2014, California's governor declared a state of drought emergency; as of September 30, 58% of the state was classified as experiencing exceptional drought, the most intense drought category.

Source: US Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor; National Drought Mitigation Center.

California's drought, which began in 2011, has resulted in a significant decline in hydropower generation. On average, hydropower accounted for 20% of California's in-state generation during the first six months of each year from 2004 to 2013.

During the first half of 2014, however, hydropower accounted for only 10% of California's total generation. Monthly hydropower generation in 2014 has fallen well below the 10-year range for each individual month.

Graph of California hydropower net generation. Source: US Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly.

In California, natural gas-fired capacity is often used to help offset lower levels of generation from hydropower facilities. The chart below shows how this inverse relationship can work: when monthly hydropower generation dips under 10-year average levels, monthly natural gas generation often rises above its 10-year average in response.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly.

From January through June 2014, natural gas generation in California was 3% higher compared to the same period in 2013 and 16% higher compared to the January-June average from the previous 10 years.

Edited from source by Katie Woodward

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