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For a few days in late June, spiking power rates forced Bellingham (Wash.) Cold Storage Co. to pay up to $75,000 a day for electricity--25 times the normal rate.
To meet contracts and keep 75 million tons of fruit, vegetables and seafood in the company's 16 warehouses frozen, managers turned off lights and office air conditioning. They operated some refrigeration systems only at night, when rates were lower.
"It was horrible. It was very upsetting, depressing, the greatest turmoil I've ever seen us go through," said Sheryl Hershey, who manages safety and environmental compliance for the company.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, the huge Birmingham Steel plant near the West Seattle Bridge was undisturbed by fluctuations in the spot-power market. Running at full capacity, the factory has been melting tons of steel to fuel Seattle's building boom, and consuming the equivalent of 30 million kilowatts of cheap …