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Ah, Springtime, when a boy's thoughts turn to love. And baseball, which is pretty much the same thing.

At this writing, it's not quite March, which is probably a little early to start worrying about spring, but the SCROOMtimes editorial offices are in beautiful Northern California, where winter means that it rains a lot and the temperature during the day gets down to all of 55 degrees. You'll have to forgive a little early celebration.

And we need to take all the reasons to celebrate that we can up here. I'm sure you've all heard about the power crisis. It's pretty real, the rolling blackouts, high prices (my PG&E bills this winter are up about 30%), etc. It's not pretty, but that's what we get for letting Pete Wilson and his rich friends give it to us up the ass, er, put de-regulation through.

This whole thing is partially real, partially created to make a bunch of rich folks money, partially the fault of all those idiots (including Cisco) who refused to let power plants be built in California, and partially a lot of over-reaction by everybody.

The basics:

  • Power demand in California has gone up dramatically in recent years. Yeah, there's been a lot of immigration, both foreign and from other states. 100K people per year, according to some estimates. But let's not forget the internet. Do you have any idea how much power it takes to run a server farm for Yahoo, or an ISP? Not to mention the air conditioning for one of those big rooms. For those of you with a computer on your desk, you hardly notice. But put 100 of them in a room, and you are creating a LOT of heat.
    There is a recent study by the California ISO (the group that is supposed to "handle" the de-regulation that suggests, rather strongly, that the power companies' claims of a dramatic increase in power demand is bogus, an attempt by those power generators to use false demand to increase profits. More on this as it develops...
  • The folks who wrote the deregulation rules seemingly were a pack of raving morons. As well as bought and paid for by - surprise! The electric industry. A few highlights:
    1. The utilities were ordered to sell their power generation facilities. They promptly bought more - in other states. And electric utilities in other states (Duke Power, among others) bought plants from PG&E and Southern Cal Edison.

    2. The utilities were not allowed to buy electricity using long-term contracts, forcing them to buy on the spot market. In most realistic cases, this is going to cost a LOT more money, unless generation capabilities constantly go up.

    3. You haven't heard much from Los Angeles - that's because they have their own municipal power utility, and weren't affected by the state's stupid policies. Sacramento is in the same position - hey! a bunch of idiots making decisions that don't really affect them! What a surprise!

  • The northwest (Washington, Oregon) have been having a drier-than-normal winter. This means less water in their hydroelectric systems, so they have less power to sell to California than normal.

  • Power plants need a LOT of maintenance. To do this maintenance, they have to be shut down for a time. This is usually done in the winter, since the demand is less. When PG&E owned all the plants, they scheduled these maintenance outages so that multiple plants weren't down at the same time. But now that different entities own different plants (Duke, Calpine), they shut them down on their own schedule. Several at the same time. Er, Mr De-Regulator, guess you forgot about that part, eh?

  • NIMBY-ism is rampant. Even Cisco, a huge company building a huge new facility, which will be using a lot of power, fights against Calpine building a power plant near said facility. Doesn't really affect them, they are going to have an on-site generation facility, I hear. It's not that folks wouldn't let them build nuclear plants, as some think, but they wouldn't let them build ANY plants. No new power plants in the last 15 years in California.

So basically, weather, capitalism, greed, and selfishness have pretty much caused this problem. In the process, PG&E has lost 12 billion dollars - oh, did they forget to mention that they earned over 3 billion in the same period? Mr. De-Regulator wrote the law specifically so that they are required to keep that seperate from the losses. PG&E's parent company gave out HUGE dollars in the form of dividends to investors. Still any doubts as to who was supplying the pens to the De-Regulators?

Ah well, summer is coming, the days are longer. When the next blackout hits, I'll just head outside with a book. Time to get some more candles!