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Swiss hydro stocks slip below 2018 levels as winter surplus vanishes

London — Swiss hydro reservoir levels dropped below 2018 levels in the week to May 13 but remained above the longer-term average, weekly data from federal energy office SFOE showed Thursday.

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Stocks fell 0.14 TWh to 1.853 TWh in the week versus a net inflow of 0.39 TWh for the same week a year ago.

This is the first time stocks have dipped below 2018 levels this year, a net 0.5 TWh loss being recorded since the start of April compared with a net gain of 1 TWh over the same period last year.

At 21% of reservoir capacity, however, Swiss stocks are still above the 10-year average of 17.3%.

April generally marks a low point in Swiss reservoir levels ahead of higher net inflows from snow melt and falling power demand.

Reserves had been kept higher than usual in expectation of reduced nuclear in France where January reactor output hit at an 18-year-low, with a mild February and windy March also ensuring higher-than-usual reservoir levels going into summer.

Traders meanwhile have focused on low hydro levels in Italy this winter amid a widening premium of Italian summer power prices over Swiss power.

The outage of a 380 kV cable over the Albula Pass since October reduced Swiss transit capacity to Italy by around 900 MW.

Repair works are scheduled to start this month.

A return of the cable is unlikely before July, Swissgrid said, with an update due next week amid reports of fresh snowfall above 1,500 meters.

Italian front-month prices dropped this week as a change to more rainy conditions is expected to boost Italian hydro stocks, which were 14% below last year's level by end-April, TSO data showed.

Rhine river levels at the Swiss-German border rose to 92% of the long-term average from 79% a week ago, the data showed.

Net power flows on the border have been balanced over the last three weeks compared with net import positions for Switzerland during the winter.

Swiss front-quarter power contracts have narrowed their discount to Italian Q3 baseload slightly over the past week with Switzerland pegged at Eur43.25/MWh, Italy at Eur59.25/MWh, Germany at Eur43/MWh and France at Eur43.60, EEX data showed.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com