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Researchers light energy Web site

Lawrence National Berkeley Laboratory researchers unveil a new Web site to inform consumers about the supply and demand for electricity.

Researchers launched Tuesday a new Web site that illustrates the energy crisis in California in an effort to inform the public of the state's electricity shortage.

The Department of Energy's Lawrence National Berkeley Laboratory said the Web site features a graph that illustrates in a real-time format the total demand and supply for electricity in California.

"Since things have gotten so complicated, we've been trying to get as much data as possible to try to understand how much it costs to supply electricity and how those costs are affected by various conditions," said Katie Coughlin, a research associate at the lab. "If you're feeling like you want to contribute to helping the state, the graph is a reasonable good indicator of when there's not enough supply to meet demand."

In recent months, California has been hit with severe energy problems as residents and businesses face skyrocketing energy bills and rolling blackouts.

Researchers said the new Web site will offer consumers helpful information that illustrates the sources of California's energy shortage. For example, the site, which is updated every 10 minutes by the California Independent System Operator, shows how much power consumers are using. The site also offers information on how much power needs to be imported from outside the state to make up for the shortfall and how supply and demand changes throughout the day.

Researchers said the information on outages is updated daily; the data on imports and exports of electricity are updated hourly. The researchers launched another Web site that provides advice to California residents on how to reduce their energy use by 20 percent to qualify for a rebate under California's 20/20 Rebate Program.

The program offers a 20 percent rebate on electricity bills for June through September to customers of Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison who use at least 20 percent less electricity than they consumed last year during that same time period.

Coughlin said the energy crisis Web site will also add other features such as an archive of older graphs that shows days when there were blackouts as well as links to energy efficiency sites.

"For people who are curious in trying to understand what's going on, it's a way of introducing more quantitative stuff to people," Coughlin said.