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California Electricity Crisis

Causes

In-state power output failed to keep up with demand[clarification needed]

California’s population increased by 13% during the 1990s. The state did not build any new major power plants during that time, although existing in-state power plants were expanded and power output was increased nearly 30% from 1990 to 2001.

Government price caps

By keeping the consumer price of electricity artificially low, the California government discouraged citizens from practicing conservation. In February 2001, California governor Gray Davis stated, “Believe me, if I wanted to raise rates I could have solved this problem in 20 minutes.”

Energy price regulation forced suppliers to ration their electricity supply rather than expand production.[citation needed] This artificial scarcity created opportunities for market manipulation by energy speculators.[citation needed]

State lawmakers expected the price of electricity to decrease due to the resulting competition; hence they capped the price of electricity at the pre-deregulation level. Since they also saw it as imperative that the supply of electricity remain uninterrupted, utility companies were required by law to buy electricity from spot markets at uncapped prices when faced with imminent power shortages.

When the electricity demand in California rose, utilities had no financial incentive to expand production, as long term prices were capped. Instead, wholesalers such as Enron manipulated the market to force utility companies into daily spot markets for short term gain. For example, in a market technique

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