Record-low snowfall in parts of West contributes to waning hydroelectric power in California

EnergyAssociated Press

This winter's record-low snowfall means less hydroelectricity for California.

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada stands at 12 percent of average. Energy officials say that means less melting snow throughout the year to run the turbines at dams.

Continue Reading Below

California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller says it will force the state to increase its use of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. The state says it will also seek to import more electricity from states not hit as hard by drought.

The nonprofit Pacific Institute calculates that California ratepayers have already paid $1.4 billion more in utility costs because of the falling snowpack and hydro power. The center says using more natural-gas-fired power plants has increased greenhouse-gas emissions by 8 percent.