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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
California's $4bn energy boost
Protestors demonstrate over planned electricity prices rises in California
Consumers are angry at the prospect of huge price rises
By David Willis in Los Angeles

America's wealthiest state, California, has borrowed more than $4bn to keep the lights on as it battles a crippling power crisis.

The loan is to bolster financial reserves whilst the state prepares for a fundraising bond issue designed to ease its worst-ever energy crisis.

Forced to buy electricity on the open market after the power supply industry was deregulated and prices soared, some Californian utilities have found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy.

Cost of a crisis
$4bn bridging loan
$10bn bond issue plan
$45m per day as state buys electricity
40% price rise
So grave is their plight that the generating companies have been refusing to supply them with power because they are worried the cheques will bounce.

So the state has had little option but to intervene, buying power itself in order to lessen the chance of blackouts.

Televised address

But the bill is crippling - $45m a day from emergency funds.

Not only are electricity prices going up by 40% in order to cover the cost, but California's governor, Gray Davis, has announced plans to raise $10bn by issuing bonds.

San Francisco
The loan is an attempt to keep the lights on
But preparing for that issue will take time, and to tide it over, California is borrowing $4bn from merchant bankers J P Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, paying around 5% on the loans.

The size of the bridging loan may rise. Officials say they are also talking to other lenders.

Later on Thursday, Mr Davis is due to outline his plan to solve the state's energy crisis in a televised address.

He is under pressure, with experts warning that power cuts could become more frequent during the summer as warm weather increases demand for air conditioning.

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27 Mar 01 | Business
California hikes electricity prices
31 Jul 00 | Business
Powering up the web
02 Feb 01 | Americas
California approves power plan
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