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Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1996

Nevada Takes First Competitive Step

Lori A. Burkhart

The Nevada Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved an interim order and report finding that competition in the electric industry could benefit the state if the legislature chooses to authorize retail competition.

The PSC said that its investigations revealed no indications that retail competition would impair reliability, violate expectations of utility shareholders, harm customers, reduce tax revenues, or set back the state's economic goals.

New Jersey Upholds LEC Price-cap Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Superior Court of New Jersey has upheld a state regulatory decision authorizing Bell Atlantic-New Jersey, Inc., a local exchange carrier (LEC), to switch from traditional regulation to a new price-cap plan. The new plan sets rates for noncompetitive LEC services by offsetting the annual inflation factor by a separate factor for cost savings due to productivity gains. For its part, the LEC agreed to accelerate deployment of new technologies, including a fiber-optic telecommunications network for the state. See, Re New Jersey Bell Telephone Co., 143 PUR4th 297 (N.J.B.R.C.

Calif. Power Authority Rejects Exit Fee

Lori A. Burkhart

The Eastside Power Authority (em composed of four California irrigation districts, one municipal utility, and two water districts (em plans to leave Southern California Edison's (SCE's) electric distribution system and serve its own members' water-pumping load. Eastside says it will build its own electric distribution system adjacent to SCE's, and interconnect with the system owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

JCP&L to Help QF Switch to EWG

Phillip S. Cross

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has approved Jersey Central Power and Light Co.'s offer to help a local qualifying cogeneration facility (QF) switch its status to that of an exempt wholesale generator (EWG). The QF, NRG Generating (U.S.), Inc., a subsidiary of Northern States Power Co., seeks the change in classification due to concerns about potential future reductions in the need for steam at its host industrial facility owned by Du Pont de Nemours and Co.

"Secret" Rates at Issue in Ohio

Lori A. Burkhart

The Ohio Steel Commission is urging the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to refuse confidential treatment to discounted rate agreements between electric companies and their customers, arguing that such treatment denies energy users access to information that would help them negotiate competitive rates. The 16-member Steel Commission's request responds to the PUC's decision to keep the terms of a contract between Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and American Steel & Wire Corp.

Ohio Power to Recover Emission Allowance Brokerage Fees

Phillip S. Cross

While setting fuel-cost, adjustment-clause rates for Ohio Power Co., a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co., Inc. (AEP), the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled that the utility may include emissions-allowance-trading brokerage fees as an expense in determining its new electric fuel-component rate. The PUC found the brokerage fees "directly and justifiably related" to the sale of emission allowances, hence qualified for recovery under adjustment-clause regulations.

Perspective

Alexander C. Larson

In telecommunications, regulators turn increasingly to the nebulous term known as "cost-based" to set pricing policy. An example is the new Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Act), whose pricing standards for interconnection and network element charges stipulate that the just and reasonable rate for the interconnection of facilities and equipment should be "based on the cost ...

Minn. Approves Incentive Gas-purchasing Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a performance-based gas-purchasing plan for Minnegasco, a natural gas local distribution company (LDC).

The incentive plan contains two benchmarks for measuring the utility's gas-purchasing performance: 1) a market-based benchmark with demand and commodity components, and 2) a comparison benchmark consisting of a volume-weighted, average, total annual gas cost per million British thermal units for the state's three largest LDCs (after Minnegasco itself).

Electric Industry Splits Over National Choice Bill

Lori A. Burkhart

Schaefer measure wins praise from UtiliCorp, Enron, and others, but EEI wants relief on stranded costs."The Electricity Consumers Power to Choose Act," introduced by Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-CO), while designed to bring competition to the electric industry, has definitely attracted controversy. The bill has evoked strong reactions from industry players as well as intense lobbying efforts on the part of promoters and detractors. Everyone, it seems, wants to put in their two cents as the bill makes its way across Capitol Hill.

Michigan Reviews LEC Tariffs, Resale Provisions

Phillip S. Cross

While reviewing interconnection issues generic to competition in the telecommunications local exchange market, the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has mandated that local exchange carriers (LECs) offer all basic local exchange services for resale at wholesale rates to competitors as well as affiliates.

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