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Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1996

Purchased Power: Risk Without Return?

BY ROBERT ROSENBERG


PURCHASED POWER: RISK WITHOUT RETURN?

FEBRUARY 15, 1996

BY ROBERT ROSENBERG

Washington Adopts Restructuring Principles

Phillip S. Cross

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has issued a policy statement of eight principles as a guide to adapting its regulatory authority to the "more competitive circumstances facing the state's electric industry." The statement is not binding on the UTC or on parties to formal proceedings.

The UTC said it would strive to promote the "natural" evolution of efficient markets, but that its primary goals would remain affordable prices for electric service, protecting the long-term integrity of the system, and preventing noneconomic bypass and attendant

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Anyone on the East Coast can tell you a good snow story this winter. Like when I looked out my front window one morning and saw a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle get stuck in the middle of my street in downtown Washington. After spinning his wheels for a while, the driver got out and began walking toward Connecticut Avenue, a main DC thoroughfare.

The driver soon returned, carrying a fresh, steaming cafe latte from Starbucks in each gloved hand. He opened the door, climbed in, and gave one cup to his passenger.

California Set ROE for 1996

Phillip S. Cross

Energy utilities in California will be permitted to set charges at a level high enough to earn an 11.6-percent return on equity (ROE) for 1996. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was also awarded a separate 50-basis-point risk premium (12.01 percent) for the 70/30 debt/equity ratio associated with its natural gas pipeline expansion project.

The award reduces the ROE for all of the state's utilities except Sierra Pacific Power Co., which operated under an ROE allowance of 11.3 percent last year. Both Southwest Gas Corp.

People

Michael W. Peters succeeds Raymond G. Kuhl as executive v.p. and g.m. at the new Michigan Electric Cooperative Association. Kuhl retired January 30. Peters was general counsel at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. MECA provides services to 14 co-ops.

MDU Resources Group, Inc. has elected Thomas S. Everist, a South Dakota businessman, to its board of directors.

Peter J. O'Shea, Jr. was named senior v.p. and general counsel at Consolidated Edison. O'Shea comes from ITT Corp., where he served as v.p.

Price Caps and Competition Conspire Against DSM

Phillip S. Cross

Changing market conditions and newly instituted price-cap regulation give electric utilities a greater disincentive for demand-side management (DSM), according to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC). While approving a 1996 DSM savings target of 36 million kilowatt-hours (Kwh) for Central Maine Power Co. under the utility's new price-cap plan (see Re Central Maine Power Co., 159 PUR4th 209 (Me.P.U.C.

Trends

Kent S. Knutson

Gas Garners

Big Share of '95 Fuel Mix

For the second year in a row, natural gas fueled an increasing share of U.S. electric generation. When the final numbers are tabulated for 1995, electric generation is expected to have increased about 2.7 percent over the previous year. This compares to a 0.98-percent increase for the 1993-1994 period. Gas accounted for over 10 percent of the 1995 utility fuel mix (em up from 8.8 percent just two years ago.

Wisc. Adopts Code of Conduct for LDC Marketing Affiliates

Phillip S. Cross

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved an affiliated interest agreement between Madison Gas & Electric Co., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), and its subsidiary Great Lakes Energy Corp., an energy marketer, to reflect changing conditions in the retail market for natural gas. The approved agreement separates all gas procurement and sales functions, including physical separation of employees of both companies.

Joules

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

According to a Newton-Evans Research Co. survey of 60 information system managers from gas, electric, and water utilities in more than 12 countries:

s About 45 percent of utilities surveyed plan to replace current computer systems through 1997.

s IOUs tend to spend more for information technology than their publicly operated peers: close to 3 percent of revenues.

Calif. Maintains LEV Programs

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved requests by the state's major energy utilities to maintain (and in some cases expand) funding for certain programs designed to aid in the development of low emission vehicles (LEV) and infrastructure. However, the CPUC approved less than the total requested by the state's energy utilities and stressed that ratepayer funding should not be used to support utility involvement in the competitive transportation market.

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