Cal-ISO Report Names Traders

Times Staff Writer

Energy companies including Sempra Energy, Coral Power and Avista Corp. may have engaged in market manipulation tactics similar to those employed by Enron Corp. during California’s energy crisis, according to a report by the California Independent System Operator released Monday.

The 34-page report, which was completed in October for federal utility regulators but kept confidential until Monday, represents the first time the state electricity grid operator has listed other energy traders who may have engaged in Enron-like trading ploys. However, the Cal-ISO report makes no determination about whether the trading tactics amounted to manipulative behavior, saying that more analysis is needed.

“Other companies may have been involved in similar types of activities” as those first described in Enron memos released in May by federal regulators, Cal-ISO spokesman Gregg Fishman said. “We certainly don’t want to be shielding anybody in the marketplace that was engaging in bad behavior, but this is just one piece of evidence that needs to be weighed with other evidence that is being developed.”

But the chief investigator for a state Senate select committee probing possible price manipulation of the state’s energy markets said the report is significant.


“The Independent System Operator has identified and named by name other market participants that engaged in Enron’s foul behavior,” said Christian Schreiber, an aide to Sen. Joseph Dunn (D-Santa Ana), who chairs the committee. “This is the ISO’s own analysis” using the grid operator’s own electricity trading, scheduling and transmission data.

One of Enron’s ploys involved creating phony congestion on power transmission lines, allowing the company to reap payments for relieving the traffic jam.

The names of the other energy suppliers are included in tables listing, by dollar volume, companies that engaged in tactics that resembled Enron’s. Enron is not the top moneymaker on any of the lists.

Near the top on all the lists is Sempra Energy Trading, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, which also owns San Diego Gas & Electric Co., one of the utilities whose customers were hit hard by high energy prices. Sempra spokesman Doug Kline said Sempra complied with all of California’s market regulations.

Coral Power of Houston and Avista of Spokane, Wash., also ranked high on the lists. A Coral spokesman said the company did not employ Enron-like trading tactics. An Avista spokesman could not be reached for comment, but last month Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff members said they found no evidence that the company knowingly engaged in improper trading strategies.