From: doug korthof
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2001 01:12:12 -0800

As everyone in the industry knows, the "energy shortage" in California was never one of capacity. The business is one of peaks and valleys -- like the tides, there is a daily and yearly cycle or "peaks" and "valleys". There has always been enough extra capacity to allow for a margin of error for the highest peak demand -- but during the "valleys" of off-peak usage, that valuable capacity goes unused. For that reason, we use that off-peak power to pump water up to lake castaic at night, only to use it the next day during peak power as the pumps turn into generators. Even with 20% total loss, it is very cost-effective.

We have generating capacity of 59,000 megawatts (mw), but the "crisis" struck in the annual "valley" of low demand (32,000 mw), which patriotic conservation lessened to 28,000 mw.

If it had been a shortage of capacity, it would have occurred in the summer period of peak usage which sometimes approachs, and may even exceed, 50,000 mw. That peak period leaves a precarious margin of only 8% or so, really dangerous.

So it was some other factor, other than shortage of capacity, that caused electricity prices to soar from $30 per megawatt hour (mwh) to $2000 (and more) per mwh. Anyone could view these causes, because the ISO website listed the outages -- planned and unplanned -- on their website ( The 6 companies that bought up ownership of our means of generating power had amazing outages. See if you can figure out why there would have been such outages, and figure out why they abruptly ended when Sen. Jeffords shifted control of the Senate to the other party. The Senate has investigative powers which could unearth any possible price-fixing conspiracy.

At about the same time, the company that had bought up the natural gas pipeline capacity into california (and which, mysteriously, had shown disinterest in selling much natural gas, remember the spike in normally flat natural gas prices?) gave up its leases, and the price of natural gas went back down to $2.80 per 1000 cu.ft. By the way, the cost of generating electricity from that gas is, as a rule, about the same number -- 2.8 -- in cents per kwh.

Amazing coincidence, if you believe in such.

If you are a realist, you will imagine that the money extracted from CA has gone into multiple holding accounts and reserves, perhaps taking a fiscal journey to Cayman and Virgin Islands banks, sloshing around somewhere that will never allow us to retrieve it.

Electric Vehicle drivers have realized that the Oil Companies -- what they refer to as "the oilies" -- are the deadly enemies of the EV program. The only ally has been the electric companies, which want the EVs to do slow charging overnight, thus using "off peak" electricity, and flattening the demand curve. That's why the EVs were made with only 100 mile range, instead of 800 mile range, and why they are tied to an artificially created "charging station" (when they can just be plugged in to any 220 dryer outlet). That's also why "fast chargers" have never been released to the public, which would enable EVs to travel long distances with very little refueling down time.

Environmentalists have long realized that their big problem is the oil economy. Moving to clean electricity, where the pollution can be controlled at a single point (the generating station), reduces the difficult problem of controlling emissions from millions of sources (the tailpipes of Internal Combustion Engine [ICE] cars). You will remember the smug, satisfied grunts of the fat cats deriding CA for it's failing to build "a power plant a week", and using the "energy crisis" to threaten every environmental law you can imagine. Lessening dependence on the oil economy is essential for cleaning up the environment, and, conversely, cleaning the environment cannot be done with such dependence on oil.

Consider the hidden, subsidized cost we pay for our dependence on Oil:
* Fighting wars to assure oil supply
* Drilling for oil, the spoils are dumped in the Ocean
* Oil spills, the cost of trasporting. Cleanup workers suffered severe damage, soaked Sea Otters froze to death
* Oil tankers, pipelines and land spills
* Refineries. A large part of the Wilmington Wetlands are taken up with many of the 17 refineries ringing L.A. to seaward, the oil and chemical soaked ground will take centuries to heal.
* Refineries. Emissions go up, yes, but come down far away -- usually on communities of color, where particulate and chemical toxins cause lung problems, property damage, and a rash of costs subsidized by our cities and counties. After washing onto the streets, they become a part of the problem of "urban runoff" into our rivers and Ocean. This includes such bad guys as heavy metals and toxins, according to a study by HealtheBay.
* Diesels, both fixed and mobile. Emissions, ditto.
* Auto exhaust, ditto.
* Gasoline fires.
* Service stations, with their leaks and wasted land.
* Detritus from autos. Without regenerative braking, ICE cars use much more brake linings, for example, and much more tire wear. Those little particles, plus oil, gas and other fluids, wind up in the storm drains, rivers, and Ocean. Looking at the seeping, brown stain from our shores, the fish must think we are a people who stink. Surely you can add other costs, too.

The other side of increasing off-peak usage by charging EVs over night is generating more power during on-peak hours by residential solar rooftop arrays, hooked to the grid. Such arrays can even have backup batteries as well as using the grid for a "battery", thus protecting against outages.

EV drivers love the idea that they can not only get the power for their cars for free, but also can help flatten the demand curve for electricity. One of the things you learn as an EV driver is about the "time of use" meters, which allow charging much less for off-peak use (and much more for on-peak). Most EV drivers have 2 meters, one for the house, and a time of use meter for off-peak charging of the EV.

The advantages of installing your own rooftop solar array are, for you:
1. You pay a big chunk of money up front, basically paying for 4-8 years of electric bills in one lump sum, but the array comes with a 25 year guarantee.
2. With optional batteries, you can go "off grid", or just protect against outages.
3. You become part of the solution, it's a patriotic way of fighting back against the bureaucrats, oil barons, and electric scammers.

It's also of benefit to society and the electric company. That's why California heavily subsidizes such systems, reducing the cost. The reasons:
1. Produces electricity during the day (periods of peak usage), flattening the demand curve.
2. More practical than building new giant plants.
3. Produces electricity where it's needed, reducing the need for high-voltage transmission and switching gear, with attendant power losses, land use, and danger.

I'm sure you can think of other reasons.

Such a roof top array takes up only a portion of a roof of a single family residence. Larger installations, for apartment buildings or complexes and small business, are eagerly sought and similarly subsidized by SCE and Sempra Energy, etc.

While the idea was always attractive, it was rage at the injustice that stirred us up into actually doing a system. With typical block headed stupidity, I wanted to install it all myself, but it's an amazing leap of faith. Bob Siebert, long time solar advocate who has been on the "tour of solar homes" for years, and his ENERGY EFFICIENCY company provided technical and purchasing support for our system. I never would have actually started the system if it were not for Bob's help, but I insisted on doing every bit of the installation myself. Perhaps that's why a normally 3-day installation took me 6 months, but that's the very worst case. The money was difficult to find, but it's all a matter of priorities. When our meter started spinning backward, and our house became a "cogenerator" partner with SCE, it was quite a thrill. And, now, after the original pain of paying for it, there are no more electric bills. Our system has optional battery backup, so we can go off grid whenever we want, without even a flicker or computer glitch.

Many of the people you know and work with have already found the money and psychic energy to install solar rooftop power. After all, those concerned about the environment (and somehow able to find the time to work on the issue) are going to be the first to do it.

The latest installation was the venerable Don May, in Lakewood, a genuine environmental icon who has been involved in just about every single issue you can think of.

Energy Efficiency (EE) did the entire job in only 2 or 3 days -- it took longer to get the permits and approvals than to install the 1.5kw system which has the very latest 150 watt Siemens panels.

You can visit Don and see his system, or call him (I asked if it was OK) and ask about it. Or you can visit any of the large number of other systems going in -- mine, for example, just come by any time at 1020 Mar Vista (562-430-2495) and I'll show you the entire thing. Also, Linda, in Anaheim, Dina and Adrea, in Long Beach, have or are planning to install their systems, with many more you can look at and see how it's made real.

The state of California wants us to do this -- they offer installation rebates of up to 50%.


Rebates will be renewed next year, but to get on board with the current expanded, large rebates, you need to get that faxed application in before monday. With the current budget negotiations, there is no assurance the program will be funded to the same level next year.

This costs no money to reserve your rebate, it just puts you in the loop to get the current subsidies. Most of the information can be taken on the phone, but a copy of your most recent SCE bill is required. Also, to really decide on the proper system for you, consultation with an Energy Efficiency Engineer is required, with examination of your light bulbs, usage, and so on, but a rough estimate of the size of your system can be done now.

To start the process, send an email to

or call Bill at 714-875-3576.

If you can't get anyone, email or call me and I will make sure your rebate reservation gets in on time. This is a major home improvement, that improves things for everyone -- and gives Energy Independence from oil, gas, and the deregulation scam.

It's a way of paying your electric bill a bit in advance, after the initial investment is paid off, you reap the benefits for decades. Greg, in Anaheim, put a 2.4 kw system on a rented house -- guess he plans to take it with him if he moves?



Thanks for your continued support of Electric Vehicles!
Check out the Solar power facts on
The bogus power 'crisis' gives a boost to clean solar renewable power.