failed to provide enoughaffordable power to the state’s utilities to meet the demands of customers.The reason for this is strongly disputed. One thing is certain, unscheduledoutages at power plants supplying California’s electricity has highlyincreased since deregulation.

Owners of the plants now face allegationsthat they intentionally engineered shutdowns in order to squeeze the supplyand drive up wholesale prices. State regulation of utilities has been inplace since the early 20th century to protect consumers from the capital-intensive monopolies that owned power plants and transmission lines. Underthe old system, still in effect in most states, regulation means guaranteedprofits for utilities but also stable prices for consumers and a reliablesupply of electricity. In exchange for allowing utilities to operate asmonopolies, states set the price they can charge consumers.

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Beginning inthe early 1990s, large industrial users of electricity began clamoring forderegulation so they could shop for cheaper prices outside their ownutility’s coverage area.