Mercury rises, sapping California power : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mercury rises, sapping power UTILITIES: California is expected to consume mass quantities of electricity today.

June 14, 2000 New sources of power slide with deregulation Deregulation, which started in April 1998, is one of the reasons electric power supplies are tight.

Before deregulation, the state Public Utilities Commission determined the amount of power that utilities produced and the price they charged for it.

The commission also ensured that utilities would earn a guaranteed return on their investment.

So, if they decided to build power plants to serve new customers, they generally could raise rates to recoup their investment.

Once the state started considering deregulation, utilities stopped building new electricity-generating facilities.

Now, electricity sellers must decide whether they can make enough money to build new electrical generators, which cost as much as $500 million. Their decision is based on the price at which they can sell electricity.

No new power plants have opened in California in the past seven years.

The first one will begin operating next year.

Once approved, power plants take 18 months to three years to build.

By TONY SAAVEDRA and ANNE C. MULKERN The Orange County Register

California is expected to hit near-record levels today for energy usage as people crank up their air conditioners to combat soaring temperatures.

And with cash-flush Californians buying bigger houses, big-screen TVs and other appliances, the demand for electricity this summer is expected to be stretched thin.

Utility officials predicted Tuesday that usage today for most of the state would peak at 45,546 megawatts, just 300 megawatts below the record set July 12. The average summer-day use is about 40,000 megawatts.

At 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, the agency that controls most of the state's power declared a Stage 1 alert when reserves dipped below 7 percent. After such an alert is declared, officials urge conservation and inquire about importing extra power from other states.

"We may be coming uncomfortably close to our ability to produce power," said Steve Hansen, spokesman for Southern California Edison.

With the economy surging, California is growing by 600,000 people annually. In Orange County alone, the booming technology industry as well as other businesses will create 44,000 new jobs this year. That translates to more air conditioners cooling more 4,000-square-foot homes outfitted with personal computers and juice-sucking stereos.

Tuesday's hot weather prompted the state Independent System Operator, which manages the power grid for three-fourths of the state, to import 7,200 megawatts from the Pacific Northwest. That was before the Stage 1 alert.

As temperatures statewide climb today, energy officials urge people to conserve power.

If the strain on the system becomes too great, officials could ask thousands of businesses to shut down for the day in exchange for discounted rates. As a last resort, officials are empowered to cut the electricity to blocks of customers

-- Martin Thompson (, June 14, 2000

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