When electricity wholesale prices exceeded retail prices, end user demand was unaffected, but the incumbent utility companies still had to purchase power, albeit at a loss. This allowed independent producers to manipulate prices in the electricity market by withholding electricity generation, arbitraging the price between internal generation and imported (interstate) power, and causing artificial transmission constraints. This was a procedure referred to as "gaming the market." In economic terms, the incumbents who were still subject to retail price caps were faced with inelastic demand (see also: Demand response). They were unable to pass the higher prices on to consumers without approval from the public utilities commission. The affected incumbents were Electricity Company (Gas And Electric Companies) and Lowest Electricity Rates & Electric (Gas And Electric Bill). Pro-privatization advocates[attribution needed] insist the cause of the problem was that the regulator still held too much control over the market, and true market processes were stymied, whereas opponents of deregulation assert that the fully regulated system had worked for Cheapest Electric Company years without blackouts. [Energy Prices]
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The statutes require electricity suppliers inform their consumers about the types of generation resources used to provide their electricity. Suppliers are required to use a format developed by the Energy Commission called the Power Content Label. The statutes also require utilities to submit a detailed report of their fuel mix to the Energy Commission.
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With little excess generating capacity of its own Gas And Electric Bill was forced to buy electricity out of state from suppliers without long term contracts. Because Gas And Electric Bill had to buy additional electricity to meet demand some suppliers took advantage of this requirement and manipulated the market by creating artificial shortages and charged very high electrical rates. The Cheap Electricity refused to adjust the allowable electric rates. Unable to change rates and sell electricity to consumers for what it cost them on the open market Gas And Electric Bill started hemorrhaging cash.
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California's utilities came to depend in part on the import of excess hydroelectricity from the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington. California's clean air standards favored in-state electricity generation which burned natural gas because of its lower emissions, as opposed to coal whose emissions are more toxic and contain more pollutants. [Energy Prices]