<i>Energy Circuit<\/i>?s elves have been reading your lists, finding that some of you have been naughty and some of you nice. We loaded up our reindeer with laptops so they can get their MapQuest headings to find the right chimneys for this year?s "Sparks and Snarks" awards. <b>Sparks<\/b> <b>A Million Solar Homes (Systems)<\/b>?The promise of a bipartisan effort to make photovoltaics as ubiquitous as air conditioners could make the difference between a Grinch next generation and standing a chance of a cleaner future. Fund it now; don?t bicker about allocation until the chance is lost. Whatever it costs?and whoever pays for it?it will still be a relatively cheap and absolutely necessary investment in our future. And don?t forget that fossil fuels have reaped subsidies?much higher ones?for decades. <b>Agency coordination<\/b>?The California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission actually did more than talk about making Santa?s ?nice? list this year. They coordinated on major issues, including their joint Energy Action Plan, giving top billing to energy efficiency, demand response, and renewables. <b>Muni diversity<\/b>?No woman is head of an investor-owned utility, and only one female heads an energy company. In contrast, several munis are run by women. Although less than ideal, private utilities have a larger percentage of women in their top management than do the generators and other industries. <b>No blackouts<\/b>?Don?t forget what we?re missing this year. The California Independent System Operator steered the state through a summer that saw new peak-load records without rolling blackouts. Calls for conservation don?t appear to have put a dent in Circuit?s neighborhood?s holiday light display, though. <b>Climate change is a fact of life<\/b>?The administration?s and state energy agencies? strong stance on climate change and push to limit greenhouse gases made climate change a part of energy policy and regulation this year. In the year that Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which goes into force in February, utilities also faced up to the need to reduce heat-trapping gases and file reports. Some, including PG&E, backed modest proposals to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. <b>Annoying perfection of certain executives<\/b>?Marcie Edwards, head of Anaheim Public Power, as the interim chief executive officer of CAISO made a huge difference in the grid operator?s processes. ?You have had such a positive impact in such a short period of time,? the grid operator?s general counsel Charlie Robinson told her. And we heard nothing but praise from others. We do hate it when there?s no gossip to report. <b>A teeny bit more public access<\/b>?Voters approved an initiative to improve the public?s access to governmental meetings and records. After all, access to full and complete information gets rid of those nasty bugs hanging out during the cold season. <b>A cool breeze lifts all turbines<\/b>?After years of fighting, Southern California Edison finally lit a candle for a proposal to connect new wind projects in the Tehachapis to the grid. The lines would be paid for by neither wind developers nor the utility, but by ratepayers. Yes, another burden on ratepayers, but cheap when you consider the renewable resources that would otherwise be lost or greatly delayed. <b>L.A. out of the coal business<\/b>?When Los Angeles mayor James Hahn ordered the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power to pull out of coal-fired plant expansion at the Intermountain Power Project in Utah and instead pursue a 20 percent renewable supply goal, everyone in the smoggy basin breathed a sigh of relief for their friends in the Four Corners. It?s just not ?goodwill toward men (& women)? to take advantage of cheap but short-term fuel when it pollutes your neighbors. <b>PG&E out of bankruptcy<\/b>?Regulators found out the hard way that squeezing the nation?s largest utility during the energy crisis backfired, causing the state to take up the slack. PG&E is now back in business with a vengeance. The lifeblood of energy is flowing, and there?s yet to be a major storm blackout this year. <b>Snarks<\/b> <b>Talk the talk, but walk?<\/b>?There?s been far more talk than action this year. In fact, despite the promise of an energy policy, nothing happened. On the renewables front, we have a renewables portfolio standard with long-awaited ground rules but no new green power deals. <b>The stockings were hung by the chimney with disregard<\/b>?<i>Circuit<\/i>?s elves got the most mail on this one. The lament over PG&E paying bonuses to utility execs wasn?t just about the money. It was bad press. It was greed. Did anyone ever hear that a portion of that largesse got stuffed into Salvation Army kettles? Meanwhile, utility ratepayers got left holding the huge $8 billion bankruptcy bag, and shareholders remained dividendless. The first round was made as the utility emerged from bankruptcy, with $84 million paid to 17 of the top executives at PG&E and the National Energy Group. The second round involved payout of $89.4 million. <b>It?s my present and I?m not gonna share<\/b>?The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continued its insistence on calling the shots on the siting of LNG terminals around the country, with California the test case. Then there was the subsequent sneaky action of boosting the federal regulators? chances of overpowering the CPUC in court over the siting of the Long Beach terminal via a secret provision slipped into the federal energy measure. It states Congress intended to give FERC exclusive authority over LNG siting under the Natural Gas Act. Remember the days when the Republican party was a champion of states? rights? <b>A lot less public access<\/b>?While voters approved more open policy processes, there was no end to closed-door deal-making at the CPUC in 2004. Think Mountainview, TrueSolar, Otay Mesa, Diablo Canyon. Oh, and there were a bunch that we don?t know about because, hey, they?re secret. Allowing a select few to see the terms of a project and revealing them publicly only after commission approval deserves more than lumps of fossilized dinosaur parts. The secrets affect not only utility bills, but air quality, economy, and environment. <b>Bigger is not better<\/b> (unless you have a diamond or a subscription to <i>Circuit<\/i> in mind?Lavish lifestyles consume far more than their fair share, burdening the grid and making those who conserve pay for it. Big houses, particularly in the Inland Empire, are guzzling energy. This means that the rest of us have to pay for more infrastructure. <b>The nuke of no return<\/b>?After a seemingly never-ending round of diplomatic snafus, Edison abandoned its plans to ship the remains of a decommissioned reactor from SONGS around Cape Horn to Barnwell, South Carolina. While we?d like to bid it adieu, California is now stuck with one huge radioactive batch of steel and concrete. <b>Utilities hype the goods<\/b>?That new DVD movie you thought was under the tree turned into a whole DVD player? Perhaps Edison?s quality-assurance folks were behind it. Edison?s chief executive officer admitted that his employees were a bit too enthusiastic when it came to rating consumer evaluations of the utility?s effectiveness. Also in 2004, PG&E might have been rather hasty in cutting off customers for nonpayment when their bills were estimated, as the CPUC?s investigation led to an order to halt the billing process. <b>Toy thieves<\/b>?<i>Circuit<\/i>?s warehouse, stocked with little gifts of intellectual property wrapped in brightly colored PDFs, has sadly been the target of thieves in the night during 2004. <i>Circuit<\/i>?s hardworking elves are understandably saddened when they find evidence of break-ins because every time it happens, there?s one less cookie on their plates. Don?t forget that this is the last issue of the year. We will, however, post any breaking news during the holidays on our Web site. Please direct tips and questions to (510) 534-9109 or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy holidays from all of the <i>Circuit<\/i> elves and reindeer.