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Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1995

Let's End the Monopoly

N/A

My subject today is regulation and competition in the electric utility industry.

You all know only too well what's happened to this industry in the last decade or so: Inflation accelerated, interest rates rose, productivity growth slowed, fuel prices rose dramatically, growth in demand stopped, and the cost of meeting environmental and safety regulations soared. For utilities that was truly a devil's brew.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

It was after seven o'clock in the evening (em nearly 12 hours since the DOE-NARUC Second National Electricity Forum had gotten underway up in Providence, RI (em when it all finally hit home. This time the regulators were serious. People were paying attention.

People

Richard J. Grossi, chairman and CEO of United Illuminating Co., has been elected chairman of the North American Reliability Council. Grossi will serve a two-year term.

Thomas L. Fisher, president and CEO of Northern Illinois Gas Co. has been elected chairman of the Gas Research Institute's board of directors. Fisher will serve a one-year term, along with newly elected vice chairman, John F. Riordan, president and CEO of MidCon Corp.

Chairman Thomas G.

Mailbag

Vince Esposito

In his recent article, "The Future of Local Gas Distributors" (Feb 1, 1995, p. 20), Vinod Dar presents a vision of executives at the local distribution company (LDC) lining up to buy cemetery plots (em even as the gas marketers, charging on horseback, seize the high ground of "middle" and

core-markets.

That sort of bravado cannot substitute for an in-depth knowledge of gas distribution. Mr. Dar in fact distorts or ignores many realities of the gas business.

"Merger of Equals" Primes NSP, WEPCO for Competition

Bruce W. Radford

Northern States Power Co. (NSP) and Wisconsin Energy Corp. (parent company of Wisconsin Electric Power Co., WEPCO, and Wisconsin Natural Gas Co.), have announced plans to merge, a move NSP says will create the tenth-largest investor-owned utility in the United States, based on market capitalization. The new company (em Primergy Corp. (em would operate as a registered public utility holding company and parent company of NSP and WEPCO, with the gas subsidiary perhaps spun off to comply with the Holding Company Act.

Will IOUs Unbundle by 2000

Bruce W. Radford

Forty percent of 42 state public utility commissions (PUCs) expect electric utilities to unbundle generation from transmission and distribution within the next one to five years, according to a survey conducted for the Electric Generation Association (EGA) by Boston Pacific Co.

Perspective

William W. Berry

More than a decade ago, at the 1981 Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Fall Financial Conference in Palm Beach, FL, I presented my vision of the future of the electric industry. I called my talk "Let's End the Monopoly." In it I urged, "Let's open electricity generation to competition (em with free entry, no franchises, and no obligation to serve." The response was underwhelming.

From the perspective of the last 14 years, how have my forecasts turned out?

Marketing & Competing

James R. Pierobon

Imagine you're the principal energy buyer for a national chain of managed health care centers, with a $200-million annual energy tab. Top management asks you to assess how the chain can cut its energy bills.

You turn to your local electric and gas utility, which talks a lot about customer service, but doesn't have much to show for it yet.

Rate of Return on Common Equity: Annual Survey of Electric Rate Case

Diane S. Boiler

Our 13th annual electric rate-case survey covers electric rate orders issued between

April 1, 1994, and March 31, 1995.

The survey tabulates rates of return on common equity (ROE) approved by state public utility commissions (PUCs) in major electric rate orders, but also includes some cases in which rate of return was not directly at issue, or where a rate adjustment resulted from a settlement agreement.

Tilting Toward Telephony: How Electric and Gas Companies Can Leverage Their Systems for a Changing Market

Andrew C. Barrett

The structure of the utility and telecommunications industries has changed significantly since I began my role as a regulator 15 years ago. Technological developments and a competitive environment, as opposed to regulation, have provided the major catalyst for change. As a result, utility companies, which have historically enjoyed the favor of Wall Street investors, will soon face unprecedented revenue growth problems.

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