In 1994, California restructured its electricity market, introducing competition as a theoretical means to bring down the price of power. The end-goal was to help revive an economy that was struggling due to a blend of issues, including high energy costs that were driving major manufacturing companies to leave the state, taking jobs and expendable income with them.
But despite good intentions, the restructured system lacked normal power market stabilizers. This, coupled with sharp, adverse changes in supply and demand, led to opportunistic (and occasionally illegal) behavior from out-of-state energy traders that caused power shortages, extreme price spikes and rolling blackouts during the infamous California Electricity Crisis of 2000-01.
A decade later, as California’s two major utilities teetered on bankruptcy and immense uncertainty, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established a policy framework in 2004 to prevent this from happening again. The resulting Resource Adequacy (RA) program created the rules for how load-serving entities (LSEs) contract for electricity capacity to ensure demand is met in case of an unexpected event.