Senate Panel Seeks Inventory of Energy in West

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) last week called on Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to provide the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a comprehensive inventory of all possible energy sources to head off the worsening power shortages that are anticipated for California and other western markets this summer.

"...I am concerned that this situation will only worsen and will affect virtually every western state unless further action is taken in the near future," the committee chairman said in a letter to Abraham last Tuesday. This action by Murkowski, as well as potential emergency legislation for California in the House, represents a reversal in attitudes by Republicans, who all along have favored a hands-off policy to the state's power crisis.

"While the long-term answer will require new generation and transmission as well as conservation, to deal with our immediate crisis, we need to fully understand what opportunities are presently available from existing generating sources as well as those that could be brought on line without delay in order for the administration and Congress to work together on appropriate administrative and legislative actions," Murkowski said.

The requested energy inventory should: 1) identify the extent of any back-up generation maintained by retail customers, and the actions that would be necessary to make this generation available during shortages; 2) examine any regulatory or other constraints that currently limit full operation of existing generation sources; 3) investigate and detail opportunities for additional generation both in and outside of the region, the nature of the generation, anticipated costs, likelihood of availability on a firm or interruptible basis, the particular areas that could be served by such generation, and whether the service could release other generation capacity for areas under shortages; and 4) evaluate any transmission constraints and identify what actions should be taken to alleviate the constraints.

"Given the immediacy of the problem and the necessity for this Committee to consider alternatives expeditiously, I would appreciate receiving this inventory as soon as possible," Murkowski said.

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