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The Facts Are In: Electricity Demand in California Was Lower

Jan. 19, 2001

The Facts Are In: Electricity Demand in California Was Lower
Four of Past Six Months Than in 1999

Data Casts Doubt on Power Producers? Claims That Demand
Has Fueled Higher Prices

WASHINGTON, DC — Power demand during four of the past six months in California was lower than during the same period in 1999, indicating that California?s power producers are misrepresenting the facts about energy demand to justify gouging the state?s utilities, Public Citizen has concluded.

Public Citizen analyzed system hourly load data compiled by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). CAISO uses this data to find out how much energy must come from various plants to meet California demand and records the highest amounts of demand by hour within the state of California. The data shows that while demand did soar in May, in four out of the past six months — July, August, October and December — California saw a lower peak demand than during the same months in 1999.

“The facts are in, and they prove that power producers have been misrepresenting the energy crisis as caused by increased consumer demand,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Power producers want Californians to believe that consumers need to pay higher rates to encourage the construction of new power plants to meet the alleged higher demand. Our analysis reveals their ploy to soak consumers.”

With no increase in energy demand, a major contributor to the current crisis is that plants servicing California with 11,000 megawatts of capacity have been taken out of service for a variety of reasons, most undisclosed.

Now, power producers are inappropriately citing increased demand to justify building new plants, and they are hoping to speed the process by suspending California?s environment-friendly standards and blocking the ability of communities to oppose new plants.

“The fact that demand in California is on par with previous years highlights power producers? attempts to circumvent environmental rules and local input on energy policy,” Hauter said.

While power producers acknowledge that many other factors are affecting prices, including demand in the entire western U.S., they have focused on California energy demand when justifying their high prices.