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Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1996

Australia: Open Arms, Open Access, and the Outback

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

U.S. utilities find

a wealth of opportunity

down under.Australia.

It drew more than $7 billion in investment from U.S. electric utility subsidiaries at the end of 1995. Ongoing privatization will likely draw billions more.

Five electric distribution companies and a generating company have been sold in Australia's southeastern State of Victoria, and four more generating companies are expected to go on the block.

Idaho Power Wins Favorable IRS Ruling

Lori A. Burkhart

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a favorable ruling allowing Idaho Power Co. (IP) to accelerate amortization of accumulated deferred investment tax credits (ADITC). [Idaho Power had asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for permission to defer and amortize costs associated with its internal restructuring.] The ruling enables the utility to accelerate amortization of ADITC when its consolidated year-end return on common equity falls below 11.5 percent.

Idaho OK's Sale of Teleco Exchanges

Phillip S. Cross

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has reversed a series of earlier rulings and has now allowed U S WEST Communications, Inc. to sell certain rural telephone exchanges to small independent local telephone carriers. Putting aside prior concerns that excessive sales prices would impose higher rates, the PUC found that projections of the ratio of purchase price to net book value had been overstated. It said the ratio had improved with recent increases in plant investment, as well as from a plan by U S WEST to contribute funds to replace switches in the sale exchanges.

Numbers That Make Sense: Gauging Nuclear Cost Performance

Michael R. Fox, and J.P.M. Maidment

Dwindling economic competitiveness has plagued the nuclear power industry for

some years. In the industry's early years, some reactors were completed for less than $100 million. Experience gained overseas (often in projects with American partners) provides sobering evidence that nuclear reactors can still be built at low cost in short periods of time.

PMAs: Taxpayer Rip-off

Lori A. Burkhart

Power marketing administrations (PMAs) suffered a setback on May 2 when the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources held an oversight hearing on the Pick-Sloan Eastern Division of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). According to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report issued that morning, about $454 million of the Division's irrigation and flood control investment in hydropower facilities will not be recoverable, because the irrigation projects will not be completed.

States Approve RTP Tariffs

Phillip S. Cross

Regulators in Minnesota and Pennsylvania have approved electric service tariffs with real-time pricing (RTP). In Minnesota, the PUC directed Otter Tail Power Co. to offer large-volume customers: 1) a customer-specific baseline load priced at a standard rate, with deviations priced hourly at the spot market, reflecting a profit margin plus marginal operating and outage costs; and 2) a simplified offer that eliminates the baseline calculation, increases fixed charges, and bills all energy use at the real-time incremental rate.

Mergers: Driven by Dividends?

Chris Neil, and Albert Pearson

The movement to introduce competition in the electricity industry comes at a time when many utilities are already ailing or underperforming. In fact, since 1990, half of U.S. investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have failed to consistently grow their dividends, or have cut or eliminated them altogether. According to a new study by Resource Data International, U.S. Electric Utility Industry Merger and Acquisitions, 1996, the current trend toward mergers and acquisitions is fueled by a desire to improve shareholder returns.

LG&E Withdraws from EEI

Lori A. Burkhart

LG&E Energy Corp. and subsidiary Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LGE) have withdrawn from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) over the issue of electric restructuring.

In a letter to EEI president Thomas Kuhn, LG&E chairman and CEO Roger Hale said that LG&E advocates competition and retail access at the earliest possible date through federal legislation.

Off Peak

Long-distance telephone rates for U.S. businesses dropped 7.9 percent from February 1995 to February 1996, according to the International Telecommunications Price Survey, released by National Utility Service, Inc. on April 16. At the same time, local calling rates decreased by only 1.5 percent.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

I confess. I haven't yet read the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order 888.

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