This page is still under construction.  The sub-pages are generally more complete than this top page...

23 Oct 2005

Skeptical Inquirer article new

Slight update, 1 September 2001

No rolling blackouts all summer!  What happened?

Another slight update, May 2003

Illegal market manipulation: it is now official.

Another slight update, Jun 2004

Enron tapes are `smoking gun'

What's going on?

The electricity crisis is not all that simple.  On the other hand, it is not all that complicated either.  Mostly, what happened is that California entered deregulation in 1996 with a lot of hope and not much actual sensible planning.  As a result, the electricity supply and its prices got out of whack with the electricity demand and its prices.  The result is that we have two very large, interlocking problems: electricity is expensive, and there may not be enough to go around at times.

Good Sacramento Bee article

Gas prices are already up

If you have gas heat, you are no doubt aware that gas prices have gone well over $1/therm.  The rest of the US is paying about $.50/therm wholesale or $.80 or so retail; CA prices are running around three times higher.  If you want to save money here, the obvious thing is to insulate, and put up with freezing indoor temperatures.

Electric rates will go up

The CPUC added a $0.01/kWh surcharge in January.  The `legislated 10% reduction' is due to expire next year.  The CPUC are working on a new set of higher rates, with a top rate of around $0.25/kWh; these were originally supposed to go into effect before the beginning of April, but they have been delayed while they get adjusted -- no doubt upwards -- and may go into effect around 1 June 2001 or so.  All we can be sure about today is that they will go up.

What you can do

The most obvious thing is to hold down your usage.  Stay at or below the `130% over baseline' figure -- your baseline is shown on your bill, and changes for summer and winter (or see this table) -- and your rates will not go up, by AB1X.  Go over it, and you will pay big penalties.  Your last few kWh each month will probably cost at least 25 cents each, if not substantially more.  (We will not know for certain until some time in May at the earliest.)

Look at bills from last summer to see how you did that year -- your bill will have a `baseline usage' and an `over baseline usage'.  If your `over baseline' usage is tiny, your rate increase will be small.  Maybe you can just pay it.  But what if it is big?

For more on the last method, try this link.  Regardless of whether there is a `payback', you might want to read another perspective on solar PV (outside California).

More things to do, to save $ on gas, if you have gas heat or gas hot water.  Some of these are the same things that save electricity.

Miscellaneous links

Natural gas prices (daily snapshot):
Weekly California energy market data:


[1] Note that CFL quality varies widely -- there are good reasons to hate many of them.  I only found ones I was happy with after discovering that a local hardware store let me try them right there, to observe color and turn-on time.  Many of the packages overstate the `equivalent brightness', so be careful to compare the `lumens' numbers rather than just believing a package that says a 14 watt CFL is `equivalent to' a 60-watt incandescent.

All contents are copyright © 2001 Chris Torek.