PG&E Snow Survey Finds Less Snow But Enough For Peak Power Needs

A survey of the Sierra snow pack that feeds some 100 Pacific Gas and Electric resovoirs shows that levels have fallen below historical averages for April.  Key water content figures show that there is half the water being stored in the snow than last year. 

"We lost 5.2 inches of water content through melt down into our system," said PG&E hydrographer Matt McPheeters.  He used a helicopter to get to a measuring point at the 7,200 foot elevation near Meadow Lake. There are 14 sites that PG&E has monitored since 1910. The snow pack is at 65% of average overall.

The good news is that March snows helped make up for a exceptionally dry wilnter. Water left over from the record snows last winter helped keep the utilities resovoirs at near capacity. At some resovoirs, water is going down spillways because they are full.  That means there won't be any shortages of electricity during the high use summer months for PG&IE's 4 million customers who use hydro power.

Hydro-electric power is the cheapest power that PG&E produces. It cost a third to half as much to pruduce as other non-renewable sources of energy like wind or solar power. It can be up to ten times chepaer than natural gas.

"Hydro power being very inexpensive opwer to produce that will be seen in customer rates," said PG&E spokesperson Lindsey Paulo.

Hydrographers will keep an eye on the weather even though the snow season is long gone. They're hoping for a cooler spring to slow the slow melt.

"Now it depends on how hot we get, how fast and how quickly all this comes down...if we can have a nice mild spring, that can help us manage it better," said McPheeters.