MONTEBELLO, CALIF. — Unpredictable energy supplies and untenable rates are affecting most Californians, with ripples reaching others on the Western power grid.
Regulators, utilities and others dissected California's energy situation at a March 6 meeting. Business attendees — except for a fortunate few — still are seeking ways to cope with the problem.
"What was discussed here today really hits home to the plastic industry, because it is an electric energy-intensive business [and] user of natural gas," said William La Marr, executive director of the California Small Business Alliance, which organized the meeting.
The alliance, based in Anaheim, Calif., consists of 11 trade associations including the Newport Beach, Calif.-based California Film Extruders and Converters Association. La Marr also is a CFECA environmental consultant.
"Our future here for this summer and the next couple years is very questionable," La Marr said. "People left here knowing or expecting that they are going to see interruptions in service this summer. ... That means you are not producing product."
Film extruder Montebello Plastics Inc. is seeking answers.
"I want to see if I can avoid outages, and I want to see if I can develop my own self-generation on a cheaper basis than the utilities can provide," said President Timothy Guth.
Command Packaging, which makes plastic bags principally for retail and food-service uses, has a secure energy source by virtue of its location in Vernon, Calif.
"The city was wise enough a few years ago to secure long-term contracts which run to the year 2005," said Albert Halimi, executive vice president. "At this point, we are in good shape."
Film extruder Mercury Plastics Inc. of City of Industry, Calif., is concerned about energy availability but "confident something will be worked out," President Benjamin Deutsch said in a telephone interview.
"The problem has been an issue now for over a year," Deutsch said. "Business has been clamoring for things to happen. ... Right now, it is pretty calm."
Mercury Plastics participated in the interruptible-service program, which was supposed to provide lower rates.
Those rates were "still higher than neighboring states," according to Deutsch, and the utility interrupted Mercury production often during the crisis.