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San Diego Energy Deregulation Info
  and Energy Saving Ideas

Here are some useful links (and my deregulation diary) to educate individuals about the fun and games of energy deregulation and energy conservation.

System Conditions - The California ISO

Zip Code

The Energy Information Administration, offers details about energy deregulation.

If you want to check out alternative energy providers in the San Diego area, then check out the Energy Guide web site or Wattage Monitor. They have listing of alternative energy providers.

If you are tempted to make a jump to an alternative energy provider, then check out the state utility commission for a detailed report on the company’s reliability. Since many states are going the route of deregulation, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners has a listing of all the state commissioners.

The web a great source of information, showing how to save energy. For example: the DOE has Energy Savers: Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home, the State of California has specific consumer information and the University of Southwestern Louisiana has no cost energy saving ideas.

If you like simple to understand things (like tax forms), then you may like the way SDG&E has its rates online.

This page like the rest of this site is a constant work in progress. Now that I installed a chat room, I hope people post their own opinions on energy deregulation and experiences with alternate utilities so I can tabulate the information (and post it for the benefit of all).

To get the ball rolling so to speak, since I consider myself a green capitalist, I have mixed feeling about the unprecedented rise of gas and electrical prices in the San Diego area. On one hand I think the rise in energy prices is good because it will force people to adopt energy conservation habits long since ignored because energy costs do not really reflect the true cost to the environment and public health. On the other hand it is shocking to pay lots more money (than usual) for gas and electricity, money which could be used for cool capitalist toys and capital improvement.

August 19, 2000

The NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE had an article that caught my eye:

Ice has melted at North Pole site
Some say global warming to blame

The thick ice that has for ages covered the Arctic Ocean at the pole has turned to water, recent visitors there reported yesterday. At least for the time being, an ice-free patch of ocean about a mile wide has opened at the very top of the world, something that presumably never before has been seen by human beings and is more evidence that global warming may be real and is affecting climate.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Dr. James J. McCarthy, an oceanographer, director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and the co-leader of a group working for the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel is studying the potential environmental and economic consequences of marked climate change.

That article combined with my general interest in green power prompted me to seek an alternative to SDG&E. Using the internet I discovered:

TenderLand Power Co., offers customers “green” power plus a savings. The Truckee-based company, which also charges an additional monthly fee of $2.99, will offer customers a flat rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour beginning in October (2000).

TenderLand marketing director Marsha Zeller explained that the 8-cent flat rate is available only to the first 60,000 customers who sign up for it. Others will be put on a waiting list. The 8-cent rate is guaranteed for one year and no minimum contract is required. The flat-rate plan will remain for five years with the rate set in advance for each year of the plan.

The plan sounded good so I called and discovered they have wind turbines near Palm Springs. I did more checking, and I signed on!

August 31, 2000

Arctic error — Open water was recently spotted on the North Pole, but it is not the first time such conditions have existed in the past 50 million years as reported in the New York Times. The Times this week said it misstated the normal conditions of sea ice at the pole and explained that the current lack of ice is not necessarily a result of global warming.

Turns out that New York Times was used by a group of individuals for propaganda purposes (i.e. open water at the north pole is antidotal evidence of global warming); however, I believe it prudent to assume that humans do indeed have a measurable effect on the climate (one indirect bench mark is the rise in CO2 levels).

graph of greenhouse gases increasing over time
This graph (of Time vs CO2 levels) indicates that CO2 levels have increased measurably in recent history.

If I assume that humans are affecting the climate, then I can take steps to personally reduce my emissions (and I’m not talking about a emissions from consuming large amounts of Mexican food).

Having green tendencies, I am reducing my emissions by signing on with an energy provider that provides green power (at a slightly higher historical cost, $0.08 per kilo watt hour, as compared to traditional centralized methods of energy production). Being a capitalist I plan to hedge my bets by investing in companies that provide alternative power (which appeal to green consumers).

As a consumer I may get a better price brake by sticking with SDG&E if they are forced to cap their rates at $0.065 per kilo watt hour. As a voter I blame shorted sighted politicians for allowing deregulation (in its current flawed form) to happen in the first place and wonder if price roll backs become retro active, who is going to get stuck with the bill when price caps are lifted.

San Diego Union - While failing to address rates charged by electric-generating companies, the legislation Davis is expected to sign would limit customer payments for now to 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour -- 70 percent above rates charged as recently as last spring, but well below this week’s billing rate of 21.4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The legislation would press SDG&E customers into a form of IOU called balancing accounts, which would maintain a tally of all unpaid charges above the cap.

Ya know, the only ones who win (financially) in this situation, are lawyers (they have job security no matter what happens).

September 5 2000

Scanning the internet I found:

Carolina power statistics show intriguing dynamic among energy users - At Raleigh-based Carolina Power and Light Co., less than 1 percent of its customers use 25 percent of the power that the utility generates. Put another way, of CP&L’s 1.2 million customers, the top 50 - virtually all industries - use 25 percent of the utility’s energy, CP&L reports.

The disparity in the scope of customers, and in how much electricity various types of customers use, make it challenging to come up with a competitive rate structure where all types of customers benefit, said Charles Harman, a Duke University mechanical engineering professor.

“What’s going to happen with deregulation is that people with market clout are going to be able to negotiate better deals than people without market clout,” said Harman, who has expertise in electric industry issues.

I have a gut feeling that the same holds true in San Diego (i.e. big power customers, will be able to get the best deals on electricity, under deregulation). Anyone know what rate big energy users (such as the port district, US Navy, Qualcomm, etc.) pay in San Diego?

September 18 2000

Scanning SlashDot I found:

GE has announced a nifty home fuel cell system, the HomeGen 7000, that they claim will be able to generate enough electricity for a single family dwelling. About the size of a refrigerator, there’s no moving parts, but they still want to inspect the thing on an annual basis. All you need is a natural gas or propane connection. They claim that hydrocarbon emissions are much lower than conventional power plants, plus you get free hot water or space heating with the waste heat. GE’s looking at a 2001 launch date, but they’re taking names for early adopters now.”

September 26 2000

Good News:

Under the plan adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission, homeowners using 500 kilowatt hours or less have their payments capped for now at $68, no matter what the actual cost of power.

Businesses using less than 1,500 megawatts have their monthly payments capped at $220.

Bad News:

Customers using more than the prescribed limit -- 500 or 1,500 kilowatt hours -- have no deferral for that additional usage. SDG&E is billing the extra kilowatts at 15.6 cents each, payable immediately.

Costs above the payment caps are rolled into IOUs called balancing accounts. By the end of 2002, when the program is set to end, SDG&E estimates that the IOUs in these accounts will rise to more than $600 million. Customers will be obligated to pay these costs then, absent additional action by state or federal authorities.

October 11 2000

The Environmental News Network, posted a story “Market flaws blamed for California power spikes,” and here the highlights of the story:

Skyrocketing electricity prices this summer were caused by flaws in California’s power market, rather than manipulation or illegal profiteering by power generators, the California Power Exchange said in a draft of a report to be released this week.

Several factors contributed to the spike in wholesale electricity prices from May through July, the report stated, including rising demand for electricity, a lack of new generation, higher natural-gas prices and a drop in out-of-state electricity imports.

The issue of who will pay for higher prices has become a focal point in the ongoing electricity crisis. It emerged as the state’s three giant utilities - SDG&E, Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric - said they’ve racked up an estimated $5 billion in higher costs this summer. The utilities have been unable to pass those higher electricity prices on to consumers because of rate caps. Now, they are trying to get state officials to make consumers pay eventually. Many experts say the whole fiasco will probably end up in court.

October 17 2000

This past week I have been playing around with an EnergySmart device (which is advertised as a way to save electricity), bought at the local HomeBase (a good alternative to HomeDepot). Anyway the EnergySmart device (purchased for about forty dollars on sale) works by altering the current wave form. I tested it on a very recent vintage refrigerator and an older drill press.

My own short term testing revels the device is not worth the forty bucks! In the case of the refrigerator (an energy star model), there was not any measurable difference. However the EnergySmart device did seem to work on an older surplus drill press because, the EnergySmart device works by limiting the current into an induction motor as a function of the load on the motor (the greater the load, the more current allowed). Since I hardly use my older drill press, it is not worth the addition cost of the device to run an older inefficient drill press motor. If I had an older refrigerator, it might make a difference, but the wiser choice would be to buy a brand new energy efficient and more environmentally friendly refrigerator.

For more information there is a paper online that has some history and basic theory on what makes the EnergySmart device work.

I also called up TenderLand today, and asked how the legislation Davis signed limiting the cost to consumers, would affect me. Basically they said since I signed up for their flat rate plan, I do not have to worry about a balloon payment when the rate cap is lifted in a few years.

One last thing, PG&E (one of the three major utility companies in California) locks in their price of power. As their losses mount (in the billion plus dollar range - wow I could have a good time with that type of money), it signs multiyear deals for supplies (PG&E declined to disclose the details of the contracts, but Dow Jones Newswires got the specifics on one: two years at 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour, the other contracts likely have similar prices, a little higher for shorter-term deals, a bit lower for longer-term).

F.Y.I. California’s other two utilities, Edison International’s Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric, are similarly exposed but have not yet signed extensive long-term deals (guess they figure if they do get long term contracts for less than 6.5 cents a kilowatt-hour which is the current rate cap, then they would have a harder time passing along the actual cost they paid for power this past summer, when the current rate cap is lifted).

November 9 2000

While the rest of yesterdays paper, had all sorts of articles on the vote count in Florida, there was an interesting article in the business section titled “SDG&E bills could shrink to zero this month, but...”

Basically, the article mentioned SDG&E which is paying power companies around 12 cents a kilowatt hour, while billing customers no more than 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour (the difference must be repaid by customers in 2002 or 2003 to SDG&E, if the utility purchased power properly). Right now residential and small business customers have credits on their bills (hence bills could shrink to zero). PG&E and Southern California Edison -- unlike SDG&E -- have been barred from passing along the full cost of power purchases because their customers continue to enjoy a rate freeze (but I figure, the politicians in office when the bill is due will figure out a way to shaft all Californians).

As it stands Assembly Bill 265 (the rate-deferral bill) there seems to be no provision in the bill or the regulatory decision to bypass the plan, which reduces bill payments now but creates IOU accounts that collect interest (this might even apply to TenderLand, now providing power at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, or about 33 percent less than SDG&E). What sucks even more is details regarding the balancing accounts have yet to be worked out so in effect there is no incentive to reduce energy consumption if dip shit legislators pool the debt and dividing it among ratepayers.

November 13 2000 in the Union had an advertisement on page a13 - basically a consumer will pay 8.5 cents per kWh for Solar for the Futuresm every month (no monthly fees) until December 31st 2001, no matter what the PowereXchange rate currently is. I called and they said the offer was limited to the first 10,000 customers.

With another energy provider having a flat rate plan for residential users, I wonder how legislators think they can mandate rate caps now for customers of flat rate plans, while still avoiding the question of a balloon bill later on.

It seems to me that since flat rate energy providers have a contract with a customer to sell power at a fixed rate over a fixed term, and since the energy provider is producing the power being sold to a customer (even though the power is in an energy pool), I can’s see how sdg&e or the puc can say customers who sign up for flat rate plans are responsible for the balancing acct. All sdg&e does is deliver the power (which is why consumers in the s.d. area are in this mess to begin with - i.e. no one is willing to take responsibility for the actions taken thus far).

November 18 2000

This past week the California Independent System Operator (ISO) appealed to residents and businesses to conserve electricity because they declared three consecutive Stage 2 electrical emergencies -- triggered when reserves dip below 5 percent of capacity. Both scheduled and unscheduled power plant shutdowns, as well as a reduction in available hydropower combined with higher demand because of unusually cold weather were the reasons given for lack of electricity reserves. SDG&E said its cost of buying power reached 20.5 cents per kilowatt-hour this past Thursday.

November 29 2000

Yesterday Duke Energy offered to provide much of SDG&E’s power (3,300 megawatts -- sufficient to power nearly all of SDG&E’s retail customers -- at a fixed cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour over five years). So far this month SDG&E has paid an average of 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour. The problem is under regulations, SDG&E is prevented from contracting on a long-term basis for more than 1,900 megawatts of power.

The other big news is, some San Diego firms have filed a class-action lawsuit in Superior Court, seeking to recover what they claim are $4 billion in overcharges by power generators. The problem is one of class action firms in the past have not done their homework (and I am willing to bet that if these suits are successful, then consumers will still be screwed over).

December 5 2000

A press release from the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America basically said consumers don’t benefit under deregulation. Now tell me something I don’t know!

B.T.W. the California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared yet another electrical emergency and in an unrelated matter, Gore announced that he thinks he will win the election (isn’t it comforting that news does not seem to change all that much).

December 12 2000

Mondays Union-Tribune editorial seems to have captured my feeling exactly in saying the energy crisis has just begun. I am just happy that I signing up with an alternative flat rate, green energy provider so at least won’t have to worry about paying a big ass electric bill to SDG&E in a few years when the rate caps are lifted (wow is all I have to say about $4,400 per megawatt hour on the spot market according to some press reports). Now if only I could have had the foresight to dump my tech stocks a few months ago and buy energy futures.

Seems like the news still has not changed all that much from last week (Bush is still in court trying to make sure his absentee prison vote is not taken away from his total and Gore is still nagging that dip shits who could not understand a butterfly ballot and voted twice, should have their votes added to his total). IMHO both Bush and Gore sure are not looking like presidential material (too bad they could not settle it in a pay per view dual, that way it could be ended once and for all).

But the California blackout crunch was eased by the speedy repair of one of the two reactors at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo. The plant generates power for 2 million homes. The power shortage also was helped by the 10-month closing of the Kaiser Aluminum Corp. smelting plant in Mead, Wash. The company decided to sell its unused power for $52 million. “The power we had been using was worth far more on the open market than it was in making aluminum,” Kaiser spokesman Scott Lamb said.

December 17 2000

After going through the mail yesterday, I found a form letter saying:

Subject: Account Status for all SDG&E Flat Rate Plan Customers

...we regret to inform you that effective December 11, 2000, TenderLand Power Company will no longer be able to provide you with the Special 8 cent Flat Rate Plan for renewable electric energy, and we are modifying our pricing terms.

Whether you are in the process of switching to TenderLand or are already a customer of ours, you will be automatically switched back to San Diego Gas & Electric.

Ya know if I was not such a cynic, I would have to say that the timing of an independent power producer pulling the plug on customers who had thought that they signed up for a guaranteed flat rate plan for one year would be just a bit suspicious. But what do I know, I still have to call them directly and find out the specifics.

December 27 2000

Reading the fine print of TenderLand contract, last week I found “If you choose TenderLand to be your ESP, you agree to let us provide your electric service on an at-will, month-to-month basis....TenderLand reserves the right to refuse to provide electric service to any customer....”

I called Tenderland to find out why they canceled their flat rate plan. Basically the person I spoke to said, they were forced to buy power on the open market and resell it to their customers at the fixed rate because they had not fully completed their own wind farm (in other words they were loosing big bucks). But I also found out that they plan to offer the flat rate plan next summer when their wind farm is fully developed to all former flat rate customers (hey Tenderland if you want me back as a customer, you better offer me a bitchen deal).

Being shafted by Tenderland, I decided to switch all my accounts to Green Mountain, they had an ad in the newspaper last month (see my November 13 2000 entry). Kassie a the service representative at Green Mountain, told me that they had only signed up 3,000 customers so far (out of their planned 10,000) because she said that most individuals seemed reluctant to switch from their default power company and that in general people from the west coast (i.e. California) seem more open to the idea of alternative energy providers than people from the east cost coast. If you call Kassie at Green Mountain (800 286-5856 ext 4302) to sign up, ask her what her latest blond adventure was (i.e pulling out a hose from a gas pump, etc.).

The big over all picture is not all that good for Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, they are forced thus far from recovering the costs of higher energy rates (i.e. they have to pay $0.50 kilowatt-hour on the open market and sell power to their customers at $0.05 kilowatt-hour) because they did not fully de-regulate, unlike SDG&E. In other words it seems that energy consumers in the bay area may for the time being have low energy costs but a bankrupt utility in the near future, while consumers in San Diego may have a solvent utility but face big IOUs in the near future. Seems to me California is fucked!!!

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