A CalTrans snowplow recently totaled my 1992 Toyota after I paid to park it in a state-operated parking lot up in the mountains. (Little did I know that leaving my car in a SnoPark would turn into a SnoMashPark experience.) So now I am stuck with renting a car far more often than I would like. Ever tried to find out in advance of renting a car what the total costs will be? In all the times I have rented an auto when out of town because of pathetic and\/or very pricey transportation alternatives, I?ve managed to squeeze out close to the expected ?total? cost one time. The usual routine is that upon returning the rented vehicle, I?m presented with a bill that includes a list of previously hidden costs, resulting in a tab at least double the rental fee cited over the phone, which sends me into a tizzy. On a smaller scale, my predicament is like the state?s power scene. Getting a grip on the cost of deliverable electricity ahead of time, given diminishing gas supplies and other expected summer supply constraints, is a huge challenge. In fact, ensuring that the energy gets to where it is needed in real time and figuring out whether hefty congestion fees will be tacked on are a key part of the debate over developing resource-adequacy criteria. The crux of the difference between supplies and the actual cost of juice is ?deliverability??with the cost of congestion added into the equation. ?It?s far better to procure long-term resources that can be delivered?even if some of them are more expensive in the short term,? said Gregg Fishman, CAISO spokesperson. For example, agreeing to buy power that costs $30\/MW may seem like a good deal, but if congestion fees add on another $30, the final $60 tab is not such a good deal?unless there are no viable alternatives. Deliverability of power?along with the associated costs, principally congestion-related?is getting a lot of attention not only inside recent resource-adequacy workshops at the California Public Utilities Commission, but in other venues too. It is also at the heart of the dispute over Sempra?s $6.5 billion long-term contract with the Department of Water Resources signed during the energy crisis. When the state was in a squeeze for resources five years ago, it signed Sempra?s contract. That contract, more than any of the other ones attacked by state politicians, continues to draws howls of protest. Originally, it was the take-or-pay conditions, along with no new in-state power plants, that left those paying the bill in a no-win situation and fuming. In addition to the initial gripes, under the 10-year deal, which was challenged unsuccessfully in the courts and is the subject of an ongoing arbitration battle, Sempra chooses where to deliver the contracted power. Getting the pricey juice to where it is needed has been a huge pain in the neck and drives up the price of power, according to DWR and Southern California Edison, which manages the contract. ?We don?t know where the power will be delivered,? said Kevin Cini, Edison director of supplies and management. ?It is hard to get the power to the load,? he said, adding that congestion costs?both inter- and intrazonal?are ?very, very common.? And not surprisingly, that sends Edison?no friend of Sempra?s?through the roof. Sempra managed to get itself a great deal because the power in the contract is not tied to any specific unit and it can maximize its profits by sending low-cost power to the delivery point of its liking. It often sends power from plants in Arizona and Mexico over high-voltage lines that have serious transmission constraints. In addition, the state agreed to pick up the gas tab for the contracted power, which is hefty in these times of volatile gas prices. And ratepayers have to pay for all of the juice, regardless of need, because it is a ?must take? deal. According to Bill Marcus, principal economist with JBS Energy, Sempra?s contract ?is approximately $2.1 billion above market prices, almost $25\/MWh, with $5.50 gas.? He said fixed-price contracts with Calpine are less than half that cost, about $12\/MWh. Sending Marcus into a tizzy is not only the cost of the Sempra deal but also the must-take provision, often tied to inefficient plants with high heat rates, resulting in wasting much-needed, decreasing natural gas. Sempra?s defense is that it spent $1 billion to build units to meet the contract?s mandate?in Mexico and Arizona. In addition, Sempra spokesperson Art Larson added, the state ?had the opportunity to hedge gas costs a few years ago when they were in the $3.25-$3.50 range.? The company and others are quick to point out that a contract is a contract is a contract. I have no doubt that Sempra wants to avoid getting into another legal battle, but taking into account possible summer scenarios may be wise. High gas prices, serious congestion, and potential supply shortages make this very expensive contract an even more notorious deal. Also, consider Senator Joe Dunn?s charges this week that Sempra Trading lied to his Senate committee investigating the gaming schemes during the energy crisis, which the press ate up. While the struggle over the interpretation of the contract terms continues, consumers pay the price. If there are blackouts this summer, and congestion and power prices soar, there could be an awful lot of public finger-pointing. And Sempra, like my car, could get seriously mashed. <b>Senator Dunn Claims Sempra Committed Perjury<\/b> Senator Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) this week accused Sempra Energy Trading of lying about strategies it used during the state?s power debacle to drive up electricity costs. At a February 17 press conference, Dunn claimed that Sempra?s internal documents revealed that written responses to a committee that he headed investigating market gaming were false. The senator, who is running for attorney general, said he would ask the Sacramento County District Attorney?s Office to conduct a perjury investigation. ?Sempra ripped off ratepayers and lied about it,? Dunn said. The company refuted Dunn?s charges. ?Senator Dunn cut and pasted partial responses and in doing so presented a distorted picture to the press and public,? said Jennifer Andrews, Sempra spokesperson. ?The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was aware of the documents Senator Dunn referenced and reviewed the allegations of state authorities when, in October 2003, it entered into a settlement with Sempra Energy Trading to resolve these issues.?