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Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1996

Perspective

Richard D. Cudahy

Ah, the wonders of competition! Out with waste, in with efficiency. The prospects are exciting. So why look back wistfully?

If there is anything more abhorrent than wife-beating and drug abuse, surely it must be monopoly. Monopoly is un-American: To the economist it represents the very state of original sin. To the courts it ranks with conspiracy. Monopoly promises economic waste, throttled production, obscene profits, and naked power (em all rolled into one. Consider what used to be called the "public utilities." In that sphere, regulated monopoly flourished for many years.

Rival Wins Gas Franchise in N.C.

Phillip S. Cross

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has granted a final certificate to Frontier Utilities of North Carolina, Inc., to provide natural gas local distribution service to four previously unserved counties. It found Frontier's proposed rates reasonable when compared to alternate energy sources in the four-county area, though somewhat higher than those proposed by Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc., an established LDC that had also applied for the franchise.

Frontier is a new company formed specifically to serve the four counties.

Energy Service Companies: No More Mr. Niche Guy

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

The larger companies are winning more business. But how will

they fit into a restructured industry?

Put 45 energy service companies (ESCos) into a $1-billion market, and they easily average over $20 million each. That's almost four dozen companies exploiting a niche an eighth the size of the microprocessor industry.

So it's easy to understand why new ESCos, half with utility roots, enter the fray weekly.

NARUC in Winter

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Resolutions generated heat (electricity) and warmth

(telecommunications, environment).

State utility commissioners have gone on record asking Congress to "call them first" before it legislatively restructures the electric industry.

That resolution prompted some of the liveliest debate at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' (NARUC) Winter Committee meetings. About 1,000 people attended the 10-day event in Washington, DC, February 21 to March 1.

Gas Restructuring Leaves Doubts About IRP

Phillip S. Cross

In a case reviewing standards for integrated resource planning (IRP) set out in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has recognized that changes in the natural gas industry, combined with an evolution toward competition (both upstream and inside the city gate), "will make gas IRP a less-necessary commission function in order to insure least-cost gas service."

The PUC said most of its existing regulations were consistent with the federal standards; however, it rejected the EPAct standards regarding guaranteed profitability an

Electric Vehicles: The Case for (and Against) Incentives

Andrew Ford

California's retreat from its zero-emission targets eases the pressure on utilities, making time for a fresh look at public and private efforts.

Electric vehicles (EVs) hold interest for utility companies around the world.

Midwest ISO Would Link ECA, MAIN

Lori A. Burkhart

Six midwestern utilities have agreed to establish an independent system operator (ISO) to ensure nondiscriminatory open access to their combined bulk-power transmission systems.

Plans for the "Midwest ISO" should be filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) late in 1996. Members include American Electric Power Co. (AEP), Centerior Energy Corp., CINergy Corp., Detroit Edison Co., Northern Indiana Public Service Co., and Wisconsin Electric Power Co.

Court Reverses PSC on Sale of Telco Exchange

Phillip S. Cross

The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) acted outside of its authority when, in 1994, it directed U S WEST Communications, Inc., to sell a local telephone exchange to an unsuccessful bidder rather than to another company with whom the LEC had already contracted for the sale.

Earlier, the PSC had required upgrades in rural exchanges throughout the state, and had endorsed a plan to sell certain local exchanges to independent telephone companies in the public interest.

Retail Aggregation: A Guaranteed Right for Small Customers?

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

With a CTC likely to cover stranded costs,

aggregators must somehow find power cheap

enough to offer real savings.

Retail aggregation: Wherever you stand, it appears 1998 could be the year of reckoning.

By then (em say those watching the future of aggregation in the "leader" states of California, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire (em rulemakings will have sorted out the issues of stranded costs, distribution, and reliability.

FERC Signals Flexibility on Open-Acces Problems

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a series of orders clarifying that it will not deny or revoke market-based, wholesale electric rates for utilities or their marketing affiliates without first allowing them to correct defects in their open-access transmission tariffs (Docket Nos. ER94-1045-000 et al., Feb. 14, 1996).

Utilities with existing market-based rates (or affiliates with such rates) will have 15 days to refine their open-access tariffs after the FERC identifies a problem (em only then will market-based rates be revoked.

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