The California Electricity Crisis

The California Electricity Crisis

Author: James L. Sweeney
ISBN: 978-0-8179-2911-4
Publication Date: 7/17/2002
Pages: 291

Since the spring of 2000, energy problems have plagued California. Californians have faced blackouts, seen the state budget surplus disappear, watched Pacific Gas and Electric file for bankruptcy, and listened to state officials point fingers at many organizations and individuals for allegedly causing the crisis. The chain of events began as an opportunity for California to restructure and improve its electricity system. But after political leaders mismanaged the electricity crisis, California now faces an electricity blight while it struggles to recover from its self-imposed wounds.

The California Electricity Crisis focuses on policy decisions, their consequences, and alternatives: the saga California has faced and is still facing. Throughout this saga, one policy decision led logically to another, yet at almost every juncture very different choices were possible. James L. Sweeney examines how the opportunity for restructuring was turned into risk, how challenges of increased demand for electricity and escalating wholesale costs were mishandled, and how the growing crisis ultimately turned into disaster. He documents how the California governor and legislature responded to the short-term crisis by adopting ill-conceived long-term measures—creating a harmful legacy for decades to come. But Professor Sweeney also shows how the state can still move past its difficulties by improving electricity markets, reducing risk, and appropriately managing the state's financial obligations.

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James L. Sweeney

James “Jim” L. Sweeney is a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Precourt Institute for Energy, the US Association for Energy Economics, and the California Council on Science and Technology.


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172   State and Federal Policy Responses 188   California Policy during the Crisis: A Critique 216       CHAPTER 5 FROM CRISIS TO BLIGHT 223   Long-Term Electricity Purchase Contracts 228   Electricity Revenue Bonds 236   Inclusion of the Utilities’ Past Crisis Costs in Future Electricity Rates 238   Paying Sunk Costs through Future Electricity Prices 239   Elimination of Direct Access 241   State Power Authority 242       CHAPTER 6 POLICY OPTIONS: WHAT NEXT? 245   Improve Regional Integration 245   Improve California Electricity Markets 248   Improve Risk Management 260   Manage California’s Financial Obligations 272       CHAPTER 7 SOME REFLECTIONS 277         Index 285

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