to PT - California Energy Crisis Clarification
PT expresses, "Everyone knows who and what caused the California energy crisis. Unregulated free market capitalism, red in tooth and claw."
California's clean air standards limited in-state electricity generation to natural gas because of its lower emissions. This is not free-market capitalism, because there is no choice, rather a dictation by the government. This was unrealistic regulation.
There was a drought in the Summer of 2000, reducing the amount of energy being supplied to California. This is a fact.
As the demand increased in areas, retail prices were artificially capped by the government, keeping the utilities from expanding production. This is also a fact.
California lawmakers capped electricity prices and required utility to buy electricity from spot markets when challenged with power deficiencies. Price caps are not free-market capitalism, it is dictatorship.
California had a weak electrical infrastructure and California lawmakers made it impossible for them to upgrade it. Let me explain.
Path 15 allows electricity to travel from North to South, had not been expanded for years, and became a major bottleneck point. Only 3,900 Megawatts could be sent over Path 15. This forced the purchasing of energy from only a few producers using limited natural gas resources. Limited choices and suppliers is not free-market, it is typical poor central planning. This bottleneck was known since the 1980's in California, yet the dumb lawmakers decided to price-cap and inhibit the utilities from fixing the problem. See http://www.wapa.gov/sn/ops/transmission/path15/factSheet.pdf
After struggling for years with the crisis and refusing to address the core issues (due to the unpopularity of diverse power plant construction in California by lobbying groups), Democrat Governor Gray Davis of California (in November 2003, right before being kicked out of office by the citizens of California) eventually bailed out the utilities using tax payer money, streamlined the application process for new power companies.
In 2004, Republican Governor of California Arnold Sch attended the commissioning ceremony of a new upgraded long haul electrical infrastructure to resolve the Path 15 problem.
California has experienced few problems since, but the resolution to the problem came too late (years of warnings, years of inaction by Gray.) Gray only had the guts to try to fix the problem when he lost his re-election bid and the green lobbies no longer had power over him.
- Had the diverse generators been available in the area which needed the power, natural gas prices would not have become a single bottleneck.
- Had Path 15 been upgraded while it was tightly regulated by the California government before partial deregulation, or been allowed to be upgraded via rate hikes during deregulation, there would not have been a problem.
- Had prices been allowed to rise for consuming electricity, usage would have been reduced normally, and rationing would not have been needed through brown-outs.
- The IEA says a 5% reduction in demand would have resulted in a lowering of prices by 50%, market forces (had they been allowed to function by the government) - see page 8 http://www.iea.org/textbase/speech/2003/phbilling.pdf
Diversity in power sources to eliminate the need to transfer power, proper capacity to manage power demands in transfer system, or complete deregulation to allow retail price increase to reduce energy consumption voluntarily would have kept the 2000-2001 crisis from happening in California.
It was a perfect storm in California - history shows all options were taken off the table by lawmakers and all citizens suffered.