California's Energy Future Looking Brighter

According to the California Energy Commission, Golden State residents will have no trouble turning on their air conditioners this summer. In testimony before the State Senate Energy Committee, the Commission predicted sufficient operating reserves during the critical months of July, August and September.

Furthermore, the state’s energy supplies should remain adequate through the year 2005. The Commission projects declining reserves for the years 2004 to 2008, although it emphasized long-term forecasts are more difficult to make.

According to the report, California should have peak summer reserves this year of no less than nine percent under the worst set of circumstances. In the best scenario—cooler weather coupled with spot market purchases from other states—that number could rise to 20 percent.

The Commission cited several factors that have contributed to the improved situation in California since the electricity crisis of 2000. New power plants have been licensed and constructed, adding nearly 5,000 megawatts to the grid. An additional 3,000 megawatts will come online by August.

The Commission also emphasized the contribution from neighboring states. It noted supply has outpaced demand in the Southwest and Northwest over the past two years by about 8,000 megawatts.

Finally, the Commission credited conservation measures authorized by lawmakers and implemented by energy users. These measures have yielded over 1,100 megawatts of savings at critical peak-load times.

Steve Larson, the energy commission’s Executive Director, summed up the report by saying that California’s electricity system “appears to be in good shape through 2005.” However, he reminded lawmakers that steps to reduce consumption must continue. “We can’t forget that the cheapest kilowatt is the one that we never use.” EC


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