26 January, 2021

California Electric Blues

It's blackout time in the richest US state as power biggies like Enron face investigations and consumer suits

California Electric Blues
Not only the third world, the problems of privatisation (or deregulation) of power have raised their ugly head even in the US, and ironically in its richest state, California. Californians have always been a bit smug in their progressiveness, turning obscure fads from the frisbee to sushi into national habits. In '96, when it decided to deregulate its power industry, it was another national first.

"It was a landmark step," says Anand Gangadharan, executive director, cms Enterprises, whose parent company cms Energy supplies energy throughout the US as well as in India. Now, however, with blackouts threatening large parts of California and power utilities on the verge of bankruptcy, private power marketers and generators like Enron are being investigated by the state attorney general and sued by consumers as profiteering market manipulators. The common verdict: "California was a disaster," as Robert Lawrence, Harvard professor, puts it. Recently, Lawrence and other academics signed a manifesto denouncing California's power model and urging strong measures for change.



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