This paper discusses the political, regulatory and economic factors that led to California's electricity crisis. It begins with a discussion of the origins of California's electricity restructuring programs. It then discusses the structure of the wholesale and retail markets and associated transition institutions created in 1996-98 and the performance of these institutions during their first two years of operation. The discussion of the electricity crisis is then conveniently broken down into four phases: (a) May 2000 through September 2000, (b) October 2000 through December 2000, (c) January 2001 to mid-June 2001, and (d) mid-June 2001 through September 2001. Each phase is discussed in turn. The paper concludes with a discussion of lessons about electricity market liberalization gained from the recent experience in California.