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Experts say California-style energy shortage is unlikely here

March 23, 2001

Experts say California-style energy shortage is unlikely here



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

The state of California's debilitating power shortage has virtually no chance of happening in Maryland, energy experts said Thursday.

Both states have deregulated their electricity industries - California in 1996, Maryland last year - but the similarities end there.

"We don't have the same problems with generation," said Robert Harris, assistant manager of external relations for the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates the state's power industry.

As California power companies waited to see how deregulation would take shape, they put off building new generation plants, Harris said.

The same providers were then forced to sell off their generation plants when deregulation began.

Electricity demand grew substantially in California, but supply lagged far behind, said Michael P. Morrell, president of Allegheny Energy Supply Company, LLC.

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Morrell and Harris agreed that Maryland's supply is more than adequate. "We've been building plants as necessary," Morrell said.

Another difference, according to Morrell, is that Maryland let utilities sign long-term contracts after deregulation, something California didn't allow, creating a fluctuating short-term wholesale market there.

The political climate in California also played a part because stringent pollution control measures made it tougher to build fossil-fuel powered plants, Harris said.

"I don't foresee that Maryland will face the same kind of challenges that California is facing," he said.

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