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[cdn-nucl-l] Fw: Strong stuff on CA blackout 'myths'
----- Original Message -----
From: "Al Tschaeche" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Multiple recipients of list ans-pie" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2001 4:09 PM
Subject: Re: Strong stuff on CA blackout 'myths'
> See comments below. Dan McSwain is particularly astute in his reporting
> California energy "crisis." I talk to Dan regularly about the matter and
> most of what he says is reasonable. However, I do differ in some ways as
> below in my comments to his article. Al Tschaeche
> Muckerheide wrote:
> > Your reactions?
> > Power Experts Dispel Some Popular Myths about California's Blackouts
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > By Dan McSwain, North County Times, Escondido, Calif. -- Mar. 21
> > As California's power crisis continues to play out, certain myths have
> > cropped up in public statements by prominent actors in the energy drama.
> > that long-heralded blackouts are upon us, the North County Times has
> > contacted power experts and reviewed months of research in order to
> > a few common misconceptions.
> > Myth: A 10-year dearth of power plant construction has left California
> > chronic power shortage.
> I agree with all he says. California had no problem during the winter of
> 99-00. There were no alerts, no blackouts, no high rates. Only after
> "deregulation" have we had a problem in the winter of 00-01. Clearly
> plant owners aren't running the plants. We know "alternative energy" and
> cogenerators aren't running their plants because they haven't been paid
> their electricity. Not an unreasonable thing to do. The unreasonable
> about these people is that they get the highest rate for the day for their
> electricity and have been making obscene profits as the price California
> for electricity escalates far above the cost of generation. There is a
> Sacramento that would limit the price they would be paid (and also require
> three electric companies to pay them what they owe), but, of course, the
> generators don't like that and are fighting it. We'll see what happens.
> > The real story:
> > There are plenty of power plants ---- they just aren't being run by
> > owners. It's true that no major generators were built for years, and
> > will come to haunt us this summer, when heavy air-conditioning use
> > demand for power.
> > But this is early spring, when the need for electricity sinks to a low
> > in the state.
> > Industry officials say that power plants have historically been
> > percent of the time. In an emergency, many power plants can be fixed in
> > than one day and generally run near 98 percent of capacity.
> > Beginning in November, up to a third of the state's generators went
> > off-line. Discounting hydroelectric and nuclear plants, the rate of
> > at privately owned generators has exceeded 50 percent for much of the
> > winter.
> > Frank Wolak, a Stanford economist who specializes in the electricity
> > industry, put it this way:
> > "Either these guys are really bad operators, or it is extremely
> > for them to have a power plant shut down."
> And it is the latter and California legislators haven't a clue about how
> handle making them keep the plants on line.
> > Myth: Demand for electricity, driven in part by the booming Internet
> > economy, has surpassed expectations and shocked the industry, leading to
> > soaring prices and a crisis of supply.
> > The real story:
> > The average consumption of power is indeed at an all-time high, but the
> > increase is comfortably within projections made by the California Energy
> > Commission 10 years ago.
> And-----------no new plants have been built to supply the increase.
> > And population growth is far more important than Silicon Valley in
> > accounting for the 2 percent to 4 percent growth in demand that has
> > each year in the last decade, according to a fresh study by a Berkeley
> > tank.
> > Utility executives are fond of pointing out that average power use
> > cause blackouts, it's the peak consumption that kills a system.
> > Peak consumption last summer was actually less than in 1998, an
> > hot summer.
> True, but the reserve margin is so low that, even under the old
> system we probably would have had at least stage 2 alerts this summer,
> on how hot it is.
> > Myth: Surrounding states have cut us off, resulting in a sharp drop in
> > imports that caused blackouts on Monday and Tuesday.
> > The real story:
> > The state power manager says that imports were actually higher during
> > blackouts than in recent weeks. On Tuesday, officials imported 4,600
> > megawatts ---- enough for 4.6 million people ---- up from 3,000
> > less last week. On Monday, when blackouts hit more people and lasted
> > imports totaled 5,200 megawatts.
> > California is utterly dependent on imports, handling up to 20 percent of
> > summer peaks with electricity from other states. But in the winter, the
> > state has in past years exported power to the north, where electric
> > are common.
> > Now the Pacific Northwest is looking at its worst drought since the
> > That has left precious little extra energy for the summer, because the
> > region depends on hydropower.
> > The region is facing 50 percent rate hikes and its own blackouts this
> > summer. Officials say efforts by Northwest power companies to help ease
> > California's problems have been nothing less than heroic and may prove
> > self-destructive.
> He doesn't say what he means about "self-destructive."
> > Net imports into the state fell last summer, but that was partly because
> > in-state power companies exported much of their electricity to
> > higher prices, or to bring it back into the state at a greater profit.
> More price manipulation permitted under "deregulation."
> > Myth: It's California's problem.
> > The real story:
> > Power shortages and soaring prices have already spread to other states
> > the West, with blackouts predicted for summer.
> > Federal regulators have ultimate authority over electricity markets, but
> > deregulation is so far along that the outgoing chairman of the Federal
> > Energy Regulatory Commission says that it's too late to turn back now.
> But no one ever gives a cogent reason why it is "too late to turn back
> can certainly do whatever we want. It's just that the federalles don't
> return to a regulated monopoly. They have the idea (absolutely wrong to
> that "free markets" in electricity will work. Well, "free markets" to me
> absolutely no laws or regulations about electricity. I don't believe we
> ever see such a thing. And, even if we did, since electricity is an
> good, we would go right back to where we were in the 1920s when monopolies
> milked the customer for everything they could and necessitated government
> regulation that resulted in the regulated monopolies we had up to the
> 1990s. So, to my mind, the "electricity deregulation" idea is bankrupt
> should be relegated to the trash heap of bad ideas.
> > Capitol Hill Republicans are said to be adamant that the federal
> > do nothing to roll back deregulation, particularly if it helps
> > politicians who are overwhelmingly Democratic.
> I asked my capitol hill republican representative, Cunningham, last week
> that and he agrees. So there is at least some truth to the idea.
> > Myth: It's the federal government's problem.
> It really is the federal government's fault because the fg started this
> ridiculous idea of deregulation in the first place. If the fg hadn't
> laws aimed at deregulation, we might still have a supply problem in
> but it would be limited to California and, if California couldn't buy
> power outside the state, we would have blackouts, but not high rates and,
> eventually, the people would come to their senses and allow building more
> > The real story:
> > Federal regulators have said repeatedly that they will not order
> > to either run their plants or cap the prices that they charge.
> > And don't look for a crackdown on the generators who are shut down.
> > Experts say it's almost impossible to tell if a power plant is really
> > broken, much like a doctor can be fooled into believing that a truant
> > is sick.
> I don't believe it. It's easy to tell if a machine is broken provided an
> appropriate inspection is done. But that takes trained inspectors and
> which California doesn't have at the moment. If we can inspect Iraq for
> components successfully, we can inspect power plants for brokenness
> successfully. It's not like a truant child at all. You can't enter a
> body to find out if it is sick. At least not in this society.
> > It's up to Gov. Gray Davis, the state Legislature and the Public
> > Commission to keep the lights on, by cutting deals with power companies
> > electricity and by coaxing consumers to reduce their usage.
> No, it's up to Davis and the Legislature to repeal California's 1996
> "deregulation" bill and go back to what we had before, only with a more
> realistic position on building new power plants. It's way too late to
> blackouts this summer and higher rates for customers and higher taxes for
> Californian. The only thing Sacramento does is make it worse. Nothing
> make it better under the current circumstances until we go back to a
> monopoly IMHO.