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California

State Orders After-Dark Power Cutbacks

Energy: Emergency measure, which targets commercial outdoor lighting, will have little effect during peak periods.

March 16, 2001|From Associated Press

Retailers and other businesses in California could face $1,000 fines if they don't substantially reduce outdoor lighting during nonbusiness hours, under a state emergency order that went into effect Thursday.

"I don't think we're going to have need for writing tickets or citations," Gov. Gray Davis said about his emergency order. "I think this all will be done on a cooperative, voluntary basis."

But the order, designed to ease California's power crunch, will have little effect when the state needs power most--during daylight peak periods.

When summer arrives, air conditioners will strain afternoon power supplies, raising the likelihood of rolling blackouts like those that hit the state twice in January.

"It does get people to continue thinking about conservation and makes it a part of daily life, as it should be. But it is off-peak," said Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the Independent System Operator, which oversees California's power grid.

Dorinson said that after-dark cutbacks could reduce the use of water at hydroelectric plants; the water could then be used to run the plants' turbines during times of higher power demands.

Susannah Churchill of the California Public Interest Research Group, an environmental and consumer group, faulted the governor's order for emphasizing voluntary compliance.

"He should actually require those penalties to be administered if businesses don't cut back on their lights," she said.

Law enforcement agencies across the state have told Davis they have no intention of becoming power police, and instead will work with businesses to encourage voluntary compliance.

"To be honest, it probably won't be aggressively enforced by our department, if at all," said Sgt. Dave Brown of the Hemet Police Department in Riverside County.

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