Northwest NEWS

December 25, 2000

Features

Locke and Western governors move to reduce electricity prices

DENVER - Gov. Gary Locke and other Western governors recently called upon President-elect George W. Bush to take immediate action to help reduce energy prices in their states as federal regulators take a hard look at the consequences of imposing regional price caps.
   The governors also called upon California to redouble its efforts to conserve electricity and stabilize both its prices and its power market.
   In return, the governors agreed to coordinate energy conservation measures in their states no later than Jan. 1 to reduce the demand for electricity and reschedule usage away from peak hours.
   "The wild increase in electricity prices is a region-wide problem and it will take the cooperation of the Western states and the federal government to bring them down," Locke said following a meeting in Denver that included U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and the governors of several of the Western states.
   At that meeting, the governors asked Bush to convene a formal team to work with them before he makes other appointments in his new administration.
   Locke said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also has agreed to prepare a report immediately on the potential consequences of imposing regional price caps on power.
   "In the meantime, conserving power will have a huge effect on bringing down energy prices so every home and business must do what it can," Locke said.
   The governors also plan to reconvene in January or early February with businesses, governments, utilities and other affected parties to develop an action plan to ensure the West has adequate power resources in the future.
   Locke said he and other governors agreed upon several principles that will guide the search for solutions, including:
   * Solutions must help all of the West, not just California.
   * Request both short- and long-term voluntary conservation measures for all consumers, particularly during peak hours.
   * Provide incentives to utilities and others to enhance energy conservation, including purchasing electricity back from industries and other consumers and diverting electricity from businesses with interruptible contracts.
   * Provide economic incentives to develop a clean, adequate power supply.
   * Ensure a diverse power supply to avoid over-dependence on a single source.
   * Achieve rate stability now for the entire winter.
   * Price caps, if imposed, must apply to all sellers in the West and not penalize any state or region.
   * All Western states must share equally the burden of insufficient power.
   * Public agencies must have enough information about the activities of private and public utilities to oversee the fairness of the power market.