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Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1996

Price-Based Regulation: The Elegance of Simplicity

William D. Steinmeier

When economic reformers in the old Soviet Union searched for a metaphor to describe their move to a market economy, they a spoke of a horseman jumping a ditch. The true test of a strategy was that it carried you to the other side. It was no time for half-measures.

Electric utility regulators face a similar challenge.

Watts Bar Goes on Line

Lori A. Burkhart

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to load fuel and perform low-power testing of the Watts Bar nuclear plant. The low-power license will allow the 1,160-megawatt Unit 1 to operate at 5 percent of capacity. The license verifies that Watts Bar construction is complete, and that all safety and environmental requirements have been met. A license to operate at full power may be granted once the fuel loading and low-power testing is complete. Commercial operation is anticipated for spring 1996.


Bruce W. Radford

Deregulate in haste; repent at leisure. That's what they say about love, marriage, and ratemaking. Yet, in the utility business the regrets are pouring in (em sometimes from the same people who sent out the invitations.

For example, at the end of November, a week before I put fingers to keyboard, the FERC was shocked to discover that the proposed Altus merger between The Washington Water Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co.

USEC Privatization Moves Forward

Lori A. Burkhart

The United States Enrichment Corp. (USEC), after consulting with the U.S. Treasury Department, has selected investment bankers for its proposed privatization. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 called for USEC to prepare two paths to privatization: an IPO and a negotiated mergers and acquisition transaction with a third party. USEC supplies 86 percent of the domestic uranium enrichment market, and 37 percent of the world market.

Based on competitive bidding, Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. has been chosen as transaction manager.


Susan F. Tierney, former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, has joined The Economics Resource Group, Inc. as a managing consultant.

UGI Corp. has hired William D. Katz as v.p.-corporate development. He succeeds R. Paul Grady, now v.p.-sales/

operations of UGI's AmeriGas Propane subsidiary.

Stephen D. Chesebro', Tenneco Energy's CEO, was promoted to chairman. Edward J. Casey, Jr. joins the company as president and COO.

Merger Menace: Holding Companies and Overcapitalization

Jon Erik Kingstad

Merger Menace: Holding Companies and Overcapitalization

States remain as powerless to control holding companies as they were

in 1935, when PUHCA was passed.

During the 1970s and 1980s, diversification swept the gas and electric utility industries. One byproduct of this craze was the formation of a large number of new public utility holding companies, exempt not only from regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but from state regulation over security issues.


Kent Knutson

Rail Mergers

and Market Power

Coal, railroads, and electric utilities have been closely intertwined for most of the 20th century. Today, coal fuels over 56 percent of the nation's electricity. Coal and rail transportation together cost electric utilities over $23 billion annually.

Over the past 15 years, a combination of events (em including productivity gains, technological innovations, and consolidation (em has resulted in a very competitive fuel and transportation market.

Special Contract Rate Trend Continues

Phillip S. Cross

As regulators continue to investigate industrywide restructuring as an answer to regional electric rate disparities and calls from large consumers for price reductions, the trend of dealing with the problem through rate discounting also remains strong. Regulators have taken steps to ensure that shareholders bear at least some of the risk for revenue shortfalls that might result under the new contracts.


jü( )l, n: A unit of energy measurement equal to a watt-second.

San Diego Gas & Electric signed a power-sales contract with Salt River Project (SRP) for 100 Mw of firm capacity and energy for 1996. SRP will gross about $12 million from the sale.

A Siemens Power generation research team claims a new world record in high-temperature, solid-oxide fuel cells for use in power generation plants. The team achieved an output of 10.7 Kw, operating on hydrogen and oxygen at 950°C.

Regulatory Reforms in Telecom Mature

Phillip S. Cross

Having committed to employing competition in the telecommunications local exchange carrier (LEC) market to elicit the broadest range of service offerings while ensuring fair rates, state commissions are now establishing regulations to put the new policies into effect. Current investigations focus on the proper costing and rate-setting methods for interconnection and transport services among newly competing carriers.