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Fortnightly Magazine - May 15 1996

Stranded Investment: Is the Sale Worth Keeping? (A Look at Utility Options)

Stan Hadley, Eric Hirst, and Lester Baxter

Giving up today's customer to retail wheeling could help cut losses tomorrow.

Estimates of stranded investment for U.S. investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) range from as little as $20 billion to as much as $500 billion (em more than double the shareholder equity in U.S. utilities.

FERC: "High-Low" Gas Pricing Prevents Gaming

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved Texas Eastern Transmission Corp.'s (TET) proposed revisions of its monthly imbalance cash-out mechanism (Docket No. RP96-142-000).

TET had asserted in February that its monthly imbalance mechanism enabled shippers to game the cash-out mechanism during the recent rapid and large price fluctuations in the spot gas market.

Evolution or Revolution? Dismantling the FASB Standard on Decommissioning Costs

John S. Ferguson

If approved as proposed, the new accounting standard

for closure or removal of long-lived assets

will bring costs out into the open.

But is it rational?

On February 7, 1996, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued for comment an "Exposure Draft" of a new proposed statement of financial accounting standards pertaining to nuclear plant decommissioning and other similar legal obligations,

FERC OK's Affiliate Resale

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conditionally allowed QST Energy Trading, Inc., a subsidiary of Central Illinois Light Co. to make sales to nonaffiliates as well as to an affiliate, QST Energy, Inc. (FERC Docket No. ER96-553-000). In turn, QST Energy would sell power in Illinois to customers located outside the service territory of Central Illinois.

A Milestone Year: Power in the Commodity Markets

Edward Krapels and Vito Stagliano

Paper trading is here, introducing an element of speculation in wholesale electric markets.The electric power industry joined the commodity markets on March 29, 1996, when power futures began to trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). This first tentative step in the commoditization of electricity promises the emergence of a paper market for power, which, as in the case of other commodities, will likely prove substantially broader and more complex than electricity's physical market.

NEES Proposes Transmission Sub

Lori A. Burkhart

The New England Electric System (NEES) has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission for authority to separate

generation and transmission, and to create a

transmission subsidiary called NEES Transmission Services, Inc. NEES Transmission has filed proposed transmission tariffs at the FERC that would give its wholesale customers, including New England Power Co.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

I don't know about you, but the Internet is driving me carzy. Every week I discover a half-dozen new home pages to add to my reading list. Some may view NetscapeÔ as an investment play. I see it as drama.

As a magazine editor (em someone who gets paid to follow the news (em I feel guilty if I don't click on every link and download every file. I call it the "obligation to surf." And the problem grows worse as more government agencies post their decisions online.

Ohio Court Overturns Price-cap Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Ohio Supreme Court has overturned an alternative regulation price-cap plan approved by the state public utilities commission (PUC) for Ameritech Ohio, a local exchange telephone carrier (LEC) formerly known as the Ohio Bell Telephone Co. The court also expressed "grave concern" that the PUC had accepted a partial settlement agreement in the case without the participation of the LEC's competitors.

People

Aquila Power Corp., a UtiliCorp United subsidiary, has hired two executives to expand its market into the western United States. Timothy J. Culbertson, from Portland General Electric, will lead power marketing in the Pacific Northwest. David L. Metz will lead power marketing in the Southwest. Metz comes from Arizona Public Service Co.Consolidated Natural Gas Co. has named Bruce E. Plichta international financial analyst and James M. Mulcahy senior financial analyst.

Restructuring Case to Define "Cost-Based" Rate Standard

Phillip S. Cross

In opening its investigation of electric utility restructuring, the Utah Public Service Commission (PSC) has begun by directing PacifiCorp to submit a legal analysis of the "cost-based standard" for ratemaking, as enunciated two years ago in a state supreme court opinion.

In 1994, the court had overturned an incentive regulation plan OK'd by the PSC for a local exchange telephone carrier because it ignored statutory cost-of-service principles.

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