Californians Warned Power Bills Could Soar by 100% : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday March 24 4:34 PM ET Californians Warned Power Bills Could Soar

By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Californians were warned on Saturday that their power bills could skyrocket by anywhere from 50 to 100 percent as the state scrambles to find ways to keep the electricity flowing until its cash-strapped utilities get back on their feet.

The prospect of higher power bills was floated late on Friday by senior aides to Gov. Gray Davis (news - web sites), who has repeatedly vowed to fix California's energy mess without passing along sharply higher power bills to consumers.

Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio said on Saturday the governor ``is still hoping and has the expectation'' that the fix can be accomplished within the existing rate structure.

``Any numbers put out now are still wildly speculative,'' Maviglio said, adding that the Friday briefing involved a number of different scenarios.

Davis aides delivered the bleak assessment of California's power outlook in a briefing with Democratic lawmakers, saying the state may need to issue $23 billion in bonds over the next two years to cover energy purchases, more than double Davis' original estimate.

To cope with the soaring expense, California rate-payers could be stuck with increases of anywhere from 20 to 50 percent, with a worst-case scenario involving rate hikes of as much as 100 percent, according to some estimates.

Maviglio stressed that the numbers were part of a broad discussion of potential outcomes for California's energy crisis, saying that factors such as the state's negotiations over a rescue package for the utilities and possible federally-ordered refunds from power generators could radically alter the landscape.

``They were tossing around all kinds of possibilities,'' Maviglio said.

Utilities Nearly Bankrupt

Any rate increases would apply to customers of PG&E Corp's Pacific Gas & Electric and Edison International's Southern California Edison (news - web sites), which together serve about two-thirds of California's 34 million residents.

The two utilities, which together are more than $13 billion in debt, have been pushed close to bankruptcy by soaring wholesale power costs, which under the terms of California's 1996 power deregulation law they have been unable to pass along to consumers.

The credit crunch, combined with extremely tight power supplies across the U.S. West Coast, has forced California power grid operators to impose rolling blackouts across the state four times this year. Industry analysts warn the cuts are likely to become more frequent this summer as higher temperatures push up demand for air conditioning power.

Davis in January launched California on an emergency power buying program of its own, dishing out a total of $3 billion in taxpayer money so far to keep the lights on. That total is rising by some $50 million per day.

Davis also set the proposed $10 billion bond issue, expected in the next several months, to cover long-term energy contracts being negotiated by the state Department of Water Resources. He said the money would gradually be recouped through a portion of consumer energy bills once California's power situation stabilizes.

That assessment appeared less likely in the near term on Saturday after the prediction by Davis' aides, who said the state's power purchases this year could top $16 billion with another $7 billion required next year.

Such a dramatic increase in financial outlay would almost certainly mean higher consumer rates, which have already been raised nine percent and are slated to increase automatically by another 10 percent by March 2002.

Consumer activists, sharply critical of Davis for what they say is a massive bail-out of the energy industry, reacted with outrage to the prospect of greater consumer rate hikes -- saying power generators have reaped billions from California's energy crisis.

``The idea that the consumers should be paying for this disaster counters any kind of appropriate response to the energy industry's abuse of our deregulation system,'' said Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights.

``The idea of any rate increases should be entirely off the table,'' Heller said. ``Davis is choosing to punish the victim instead of the criminals, and that is the weakest way out of our crisis.''

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 25, 2001


How to REALLY conserve:

1. After washing your clothing and linen, hang them out to dry.

2. Use paper plates and pastic forks for dining.

3. Purchase a Coleman solar shower bag (holds 5-gals of water), and use this for your daily shower--works great! Hang 3 of them out and have a long shower--free of charge--compliments of the sun. (They refuel in about 3 hours!)

4. Water misters are great for the garden. On hot days, turn them on and sit under them--they reduce your existing heat environment by 20 degrees.

5. Barbecue more and eat more salads. Finds ways to use your ovens and stove tops less.

6. If there's a flashing light on any appliance (VCR), unplug it. What good is a flashing light if you can't read it--it's of no value to you and it's wasting energy.

Just a few suggestions to those in CA....and to those that will be following us shortly.

-- CAkidd (, March 25, 2001.

nice suggestions

but using use-once plates and cups uses more energy than cleaning something that can be used for years -- if you factor in the energy of manufacture and the waste of forests/fossil fuels for the raw materials

-- mark (, March 25, 2001.

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