The setting was a politician's dream. With TV cameras rolling and surrounded by beaming lawmakers and business leaders, then-governor Pete Wilson stood in front of a San Diego high-tech firm in the summer of 1996 to sign a landmark bill that promised to lower electricity rates for all Californians. The state's watershed electricity deregulation law, passed without a single opposition vote in either chamber of the Legislature, seemed to offer something for everyone. Big industrial users of electricity, having long complained about paying too much compared to their brethren in other states, were promised rate relief. Pacific Gas & Electric and the state's two other big investor-owned utility monopolies -- Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric -- were to be unburdened of billions of dollars in bad investments in nuclear power. Residential customers were promised a 10 percent rate cut for four years or until the utilities could get out from under their debts, whichever came first. And in keeping with the new competition that the law was supposed to engender, residential and small business customers could choose from an array of new power distributors eager to sell them electricity at... More >>>