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John Anderson is jumping out of his shoes. And his socks, too. His group, the Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON, where Anderson serves as executive director) may at last get its way.During a few weeks in October, a good half-dozen energy industry players (em including utilities and regulators (em came out in favor of customer choice for electric and gas service. So, when I saw Anderson at the podium in early November at a symposium on electric transmission, outlining a host of recent competitive initiatives, he seemed barely able to restrain himself. After all, during the past few years ELCON has led the push for retail wheeling, advocating free choice for customers in buying utility services.
Granted, ELCON members are a well-heeled lot. Numbering 28 at last count, they include Alcan Aluminum, Amoco, Anheuser-Busch, Bethlehem Steel, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Ford and GM, Owens-Corning Fiberglass, and Whirlpool. But Anderson has worked hard. Give him his due.
Our Greatest Fear
Everywhere you look, industry players are coming out for competition. Each one favors some new form of customer choice, be it self-generation, long-distance "extension cords," collective buying, municipalization, or plain old retail wheeling.
According to Anderson, Motorola will build a new $100-million cellular phone plant in Harvard, IL, but use a privately owned, seven-mile transmission line (Anderson calls it a long "extension cord") to buy power from Wisconsin Power & Light at 3.74›/Kwh, to bypass the 6.27› price offered by Commonwealth Edison. Whirlpool, the largest employer in Clyde, OH, has "convinced" the city to terminate service with Toledo Edison and form its own municipal utility. Frito-Lay is leaning on West Valley City, UT, to form a city utility to buy power from the Utah Associated Municipal Power System, power that Utah Power & Light has so far refused to wheel.
American Electric Power Corp. came out for retail wheeling on October 26. AEP voiced its support only one day after moves by the New York Power Authority and Equitable Resources to embrace customer choice. Central Illinois Light Co. (CILCo), which has come out against stranded-cost recovery, had announced its own Power Quest wheeling plan a few weeks earlier.
AEP proposes a regional power exchange with an independent system operator (ISO). Equitable Resources was to file its plan in November. It would apparently offer direct access for retail electric and gas for some 670 business and residential customers in the Pleasant Hills Borough of Allegheny County. NYPA envisions a single owner-operator for transmission. It finds itself (em the Power Authority (em the logical transmission owner, since it operates on a nonprofit basis and already owns the bulk of the state's high-voltage transmission network.
With Power Quest, CILCo would offer two pilot plans: 1) "Rate 33," with retail wheeling (50 Mw, total) for eight large industrial customers that each carry demands above 10 Mw; and 2) "Rate 34" for smaller customers, including residential and commercial, featuring geographic "open-access sites" (like hubs or market centers) where customers could choose their full-requirements service.
Then there's Niagara Mohawk Corp. Its PowerChoice plan, announced on October 6, would create a