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Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1995

To Wheel or Deal? Electric Industrial Pricing in California

Roger L. Conkling

Electric restructuring weighs heavy on the mind these days. Drastic remedies are born more of hope than vision. Look at the April 20, 1994, proposal from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for mandated retail wheeling (the Electric Restructuring Order, often referred to as the "Blue Book").1

The Blue Book became a catalyst for national debate. But the Blue Book did not create the problem; it only reacted.

Financial News

W. Lynn Garner

There is a price to pay for becoming a lean, mean fighting machine, and utilities paid the price in 1994.

A number of electric utilities saw revenues increase last year on the strength of higher sales, but the costs associated with laying off hundreds of employees and downsizing company operations took a significant bite out of earnings.

A PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY survey of the nation's top 20 electric utilities shows an increase in their combined 1994 revenues to $107 billion, a healthy 3.6-percent rise over the previous year.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

The other day I read in the New York Times that evolution is dead. For humans, at least. It seems we don't have enough sabre-toothed tigers around anymore to cull the weak from the strong.

Now that doesn't mean Darwin was wrong. Few dispute his "survival of the fittest." But without the normal complement of predators, we're each as "fit" as the other. The Times article ("Evolution of Humans May at Last Be Faltering," William K. Stevens, March 14, 1995, p.

Gas Customers Pay the Price

Phillip S. Cross

Who will pay the costs incurred by regulated utility companies as they shift to competitive markets under plans engineered at the federal and state levels? This question is part of the debate over electric industry restructuring, but any payments lie in the future. For ratepayers in the gas market, however, the time has come. So far, state regulators have interpreted the law as prohibiting any sharing of gas market "transition" costs between shareholders and ratepayers.

People

Charles B. Yulish was named v.p., corporate communications, for the U.S. Enrichment Corp. Yulish previously was executive v.p. and managing director of the E. Bruce Harrison Co. He began his career with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

Dan Bart was promoted to the new position of v.p., standards and technology, to serve both the Electronic Industries Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association. Bart will retain his current responsibilities with TIA.

Allen Arvig, president of East Otter Tail Telephone Co.

N.C. Requires Telecom Certification for Electric Utilities

Phillip S. Cross

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has ruled that electric utilities who plan to market excess capacity via their own fiber-optic telecommunications facilities must either obtain certification as an interexchange telecommunications carrier or form a separate subsidiary that obtains such certification. The NCUC noted that interexchange certification was sufficient because competitive local exchange service was not currently authorized in the state.

Mailbag

In his article, "The Flawed Case for Stranded Cost Recovery" (Feb. 1, 1995), Charles Studness made many good points. Yet he omitted to mention one critical factor that influenced several utilities in the late 1970s to go ahead with new coal and nuclear capacity: the Carter Administration's 1978 Fuel Use Act, mandating that utilities cease burning natural gas by 1989.

For many companies operating in the south central United States, this requirement meant conversion or replacement of most existing capacity.

Michigan Defers Approval of Antibypass Contract

Phillip S. Cross

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected a request for expedited approval of a special contract between Consumers Power Co. and a natural gas transportation customer, the James River Corp. Consumers Power negotiated the contract when it learned that James River could bypass the local gas distribution system through a direct connection with a nearby pipeline operated by Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Corp. The utility claimed that James River could rescind the contract and arrange for bypass service if approval was not obtained by February 3, 1995.

Trends

Kent Knutson

Average generation costs for the nation's electric utilities fell in 1994, primarily due to reductions in delivered fuel prices. Production costs declined by 3.5 percent, averaging just $1.89 per kilowatt-hour (Kwh) by year's end.

The WSCC is the only NERC (North American Electric Reliability) region where production cost increased (em 2.6 percent in 1994 (em as reduced hydro output in California was replaced by more costly natural gas-fired generation.

Florida Expands Telephone Access

Phillip S. Cross

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to expand interconnection for telecommunications switched-access service by requiring local exchange carriers (LECs) to offer virtual collocation services upon request. The PSC approved pricing flexibility in the form of zone density pricing for the new collocation tariffs.

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