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Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1996

New Gas Challenges Ahead

Lori A. Burkhart

A joint study by Arthur Andersen & Co. and Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) cites this winter's dramatic spike in natural gas prices as evidence of a growing need for selective new investment in gas transmission and storage infrastructure. Natural Gas Trends, 1996 identifies three underlying trends:

s Surging demand is creating new bottlenecks.

s Technology is improving the competitive position of gas.

s Natural gas and electric power markets are becoming increasingly integrated.

California Utilities to "Unbundle" Line Extension Costs

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has directed the state's electric and gas utilities to implement a two-year pilot allowing applicants such as residential real estate developers to design distribution facilities for their projects. (Currently, utilities are responsible for designing distribution plant.) In limiting the experiment to residential projects, the CPUC rejected allegations that the limitation would unfairly deny all ratepayers the immediate benefit of savings associated with the "unbundling of engineering costs" for distribution plant.

"Quicktrade," Up and Running

Lori A. Burkhart

Quicktrade, an electronic natural gas trading system created by Enerchange L.L.C. and Energy Exchange Inc., went on line January 8, serving multiple points in the Chicago area and Ventura, IA, as well as pooling points along Natural Gas Pipeline Co.'s interstate system. The computerized, real-time system allows buyers and sellers to trade gas 24 hours a day both in the United States and in Canada (through the Energy Exchange). Quicktrade enables users to instantly measure levels of supply and demand, determine price trends, and execute transactions.

Calif. Finds EPAct Standards Obsolete

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has declined to adopt standards in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct) that concern integrated resource planning and energy efficiency for electric and gas utilities, exempt wholesale generators and affiliated transactions, and investment in foreign utilities.

New Gas Storage Service Lets Customers Hedge

Lori A. Burkhart

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has unveiled a "transaction-based" storage program that allows customers to arrange one storage transaction at a time and to negotiate storage fees.The program was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in November. Previously, most storage customers had to choose between basic, long-term, or auction services, which required differing storage commitments that ranged from a few months to 15 years.

Off Peak

As this snapshot look at the seven utility mergers announced since January 1995 demonstrates, traditional patterns are no longer being followed. A number of the announced transactions did not fit squarely into either the merger-of-equals model (little or no premium, fairly even equity and board split, CEO succession plan) or the acquisition model (high premium, disparate equity and board split, no CEO succession plan).

Top 14 R&D Players Named in Report

Lori A. Burkhart

TECC Group, Inc. has identified 14 U.S. investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) as major players in research and development (R&D), with expenditures in excess of $10 million. TECC's report, U.S. Electric IOU Research, Development & Demonstration Expense Comparisons 1994, places Southern California Edison at the top of the list ($64 million) and PECO Energy Co. 14th ($11 million). In between, in descending order, we find: Consolidated Edison Co.

Competitive Intelligence: An Antidote to Downsizing

Glenn E. Montgomery and James P. Spiers

Cutting employees

may be less than healthy, unless you're ready to replace them with technology.

As competition intensifies, increasing numbers of executives are realizing that customer service may have a more important role now than just placating regulators. After all, the broad spectrum of customer service is the principal way (em other than rates (em to differentiate a utility product and the utility itself.

Perspective

Stephen Maloney

A century ago, Congress conveyed valuable public property to certain entrepreneurs to serve the public interest. In exchange, these entrepreneurs agreed to carry the nation's principal means of communication at fair cost and, of course, serve the national defense.

In 1850, with a commitment to move the mail at fixed rates and freely transport federal troops hither and yon, a swath of public land was granted to the Illinois Central to connect Chicago with Mobile.

Information Technology: It's Not Just Business Anymore

Karl Rabago

Computer systems must move beyond insular needs (billing and work orders)

to marketing opportunities. But few regulators really understand.

Everywhere we see the march of technology, especially computer and information technology. Pagers hang on nearly every belt or bag, PDAs have replaced notebooks and portfolios, computers sit on more home desks, and every major magazine and almost every daily paper has sections dedicated to news about the Internet.

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