State energy czar Joe Desmond called for a task force to produce a ?playbook? of data, options, and action steps to be employed if this summer?s electric supplies tank into potential blackout territory. California?s anxiety-ridden summer forecast took center stage during a meeting on the state?s ?energy action plan? held June 24. Members of various energy agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Power Authority, and the California Energy Commission, as well as advisers to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, spent the bulk of the scheduled three-hour session discussing what the season could bring. Official forecasts of how much power the state will need this summer predict that supplies should hold up in the heat, but a few well-placed outages or triple-digit temperatures could push California into an electricity emergency. Projections by the CEC and the California Independent System Operator are virtually the same in their assessment of resource availability, but not counted is the fact that megawatts can get tangled up in regional congestion?and the drought-plagued Northwest is unlikely to send power south. Desmond?s playbook could also benefit from a master contact list of phone numbers or e-mail addresses for private-sector energy customers to be used in the event that the administration must issue usage-related directives, he added. CPUC president Mike Peevey declared that Governor Schwarzenegger should issue an executive order to create the task force, which he said should include investor-owned utilities and state agency representatives. ?This is not rocket science,? he said. ?It can happen with a swipe of the pen.? As tight as forecasts have been so far, they could be worse. Both the CEC and CAISO forecasts do not account for contingencies such as forest fires or other disasters, admitted agency staffers. The predictions make allowance for unusually high temperatures, however, and those superheated days?not including the potential increased incidence of tree blazes?could force the state to take emergency measures. These options entail interrupting power to certain customers. Assuming reserves are spent, 1,012 MW could be called on to be interrupted, in addition to forecast reserve margins. Separately, according to the CEC report, 1,300 MW of demand reduction statewide is predicted by 2010, up from 145 MW planned for 2005. ?The interruptible safety net is half of what it used to be? in previous years, lamented CAISO director of grid operations Jim McIntosh. During the demand spike experienced May 3 in the southern half of the state?when load surged to about 42,000 MW?2,000 more megawatts were required than on days of similar temperatures earlier in the year. Grid congestion bottled up 1,800 MW of congestion, the highest McIntosh could remember for the load pattern displayed that day. In July and August, ?California?s going to need some luck,? he added. To make matters more grim, the Bonneville Power Administration in the Northwest informed McIntosh that the state should not count on any excess hydropower for peak load this summer. The region, wracked by drought, needs all the extra power it can get. By comparison, California?s watersheds stand at roughly 75 percent, with most reservoirs filled to nearly 100 percent of capacity. CEC member James Boyd pointed out that though demand response and reduction were not chief among the agenda items for the joint agencies Thursday, state energy leaders must ?be sensitive? to the matter. Here, the CPUC?s Peevey, who prior to this stage of the meeting had been leaning back in his chair and chewing the free end of his eyeglasses, leapt to chastise Boyd for suggesting that the agencies are discounting the issue. Acting CPA chair and secretary of business, transportation, and housing Sunne McPeak, who led the meeting, offered a reconciliation of points, saying, ?There?s a plan, but there?s no implementation yet.? All the investor-owned utilities said they should be able to weather summer supply concerns. Pacific Gas & Electric is plotting a ?Power Down? program similar to the ?Spare the Air? initiative that goes into effect whenever the state suffers from poor air quality. Using media campaigns, ?Power Down? would target specific regions throughout the state and encourage citizens to reduce demand. PG&E said it will need $2 million to get the program rolling. According to Edison senior vice president John Fielder, the utility includes demand response in its forecasts, and 1,130 MW worth of customer power is enlisted in SCE demand-reduction programs. Most of that total participates in an air conditioning cycling program, with the remaining 649 MW under interruptible tariffs. Speaking on behalf of municipal utilities, John Schuman of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power maintained that munis have sufficient resources to beat the summer heat. In fact, LADWP is so flush with transmission capacity that it made an offer to the state: the sale of 500 MW of excess on-peak capacity?so long as it is paid for in advance. The purchaser would have to agree to return a like amount of power to LADWP during off-peak hours. While utilities are asking for more funds than the current customer line item that bankrolls the Flex Your Power campaign, managed by Edison, Flex Your Power coordinator Wally McGuire argued that the public has become more receptive to demand reduction. He cited a recent CEC poll indicating that 18 percent of people reported that it improved their lives. He claimed that 5,000 MW could be shaved off the summer peak by encouraging people to set their thermostats at 78 degrees and blinking out one of every four light bulbs?changes that could occur on short order in response to high demand.