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Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1995

Wisconsin Gas Customers May Get to Choose

Lori A. Burkhart

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has initiated a proceeding to pursue development of a market-based approach to natural gas regulation (Docket No. 05-GI-108). A public hearing has been set for May 16. The PSC's goal is to remove barriers to competition and permit customers to choose their natural gas service. Under the model, the PSC would stop regulating a utility's natural gas costs when it finds that a competitive market has developed for a given class of service.

IntraLATA Dialing Parity Spreading

Phillip S. Cross

To further competition in the state's telephone industry, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to require local exchange telephone carriers (LECs) to offer intraLATA presubscription as part of the access services provided for competitors in the toll-call market. It found the lack of "1+" dialing parity (experienced by customers who choose interexchange carriers (IXCs) rather than LECs for intraLATA toll calling) a competitive barrier that could be removed without diminshing access to basic telephone service for Florida consumers.

Nuclear Waste Storage Effort Moves Forward

Lori A. Burkhart

In response to the recent vote by the Mescalero Apache Tribe approving creation of a temporary nuclear waste storage site on tribal lands in New Mexico, the consortium of 34 utilities seeking a spent-fuel site have geared up for action.

According to Scott Northard, project manager for the consortium, Northern States Power Co. (NSP) (em which has spearheaded the effort (em has met with the other utilities and found enough interest to move forward with the process. May 3 is the target date for firm utility commitments to the project.

LEC Rejects Price-cap Plan

Phillip S. Cross

While reconsidering an earlier rate case order for New England Telephone & Telegraph Co., a telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC), the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has approved an incentive regulation plan for the LEC and set out a series of recommendations to guide the development of a full price-cap regulation plan. Nevertheless, the PSB noted that a problem had developed in the case as a result of combining the revenue requirement aspect of the rate proceeding with consideration of the LEC's price-cap plan.

Resources West Merger Promises Big Savings

Lori A. Burkhart

Sierra Pacific Resources and The Washington Water Power Co. have filed a report at the Nevada Public Service Commission on their proposed merger to form Resources West Energy (RWE), estimating a combined savings of $449 million over the next 10 years. As a result, the utilities propose to freeze rates until at least 2000, except for one limited price increase in Nevada in 1997 and selected adjustments for energy supplies or extenuating circumstances.

About 42 percent of the savings will result from consolidation of duplicate functions and reductions in the workforce.

Perspective

Leonard S. Hyman

How do American electric utilities differ from water companies, telephone companies, airlines, insurance firms, food processors, newspapers, steel mills, and other industries in the United States? "They produce electricity and the others don't," you answer. Maybe, but the others can produce electricity, too, if they want to.

Marketing & Competing

David A. Spainhoward and David E. Schultz

With the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) come many complex decisions for electric utilities. By now the majority of utilities have decided how they will comply with the clean air guidelines and acid rain program limits, at least for Phase I. But for those utilities that have selected coal switching as the preferred method of complying with the law, the task gets more complicated. Burn expensive low-sulfur coal and bank or sell allowances? Or burn just enough low-sulfur coal to meet the rules, and no more?

MFS Asks FCC to Open the Local Loop

Lori A. Burkhart

MFS Communications Co. (MFS) has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to order monopoly local exchange carriers (LECs) to open access to the "local loop" for competitive telephone companies at a cost-based rate. The MFS "Open Loop Initiative" seeks to speed development of local telephone competition and to provide a choice of local carriers.

The local loop is that part of the local telephone network that physically connects the customer's premises to the LEC central office.

Illinois Avoided Cost Statute in Line with PURPA

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ruled that an Illinois statute did not require rates above avoided cost for wholesale sales by qualifying facilities (QFs), and so did not violate the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) (Docket No. EL95-27-000).

The statute at issue requires a utility to buy power from qualifying solid-waste energy facilities at the utility's retail rate. But the statute includes an offsetting monthly tax credit, which prevents a utility from paying more than its avoided costs.

Implementing Transmission Access: Getting the Genie Out of the Bottle(neck)

Richard P. Felak

In tales of old, it was just a matter of finding the bottle, rubbing it the right way, and VOILA! (em out came the genie to grant our wishes. But that myth hasn't worked to fully open up transmission (em at least not to date. Some say the devil is in the details, but these details are truly devilish.

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