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Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 1996

Merger Mania Continues

Lori A. Burkhart

Ohio Edison Company and Centerior Energy Corp. announced an agreement September 17 on a tax-free, stock-for-stock merger to form a new holding company, FirstEnergy Corp., worth about $4.8 billion, based on stock prices that closed several days earlier.

The news came a month after two other merger deals were announced in mid-August: 1) Atlantic Energy, Inc. and Delmarva Power & Light Co. ($2.2 billion), and 2) Houston Industries Inc. and NorAm Energy Corp. ($3.8 billion). NorAm is the nation's third-largest U.S. natural gas utility.

Florida Rejects Discount Rate Proposal

Phillip S. Cross

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected Gulf Power Co.'s proposal to offer negotiated contracts to large customers that would otherwise procure power from another source. The utility had proposed using incremental cost as the price floor for its negotiations, but the PSC found the procedures for administering the tariff "insufficient to justify a departure from offering electric service based on standard tariffed rates." Re Gulf Power Co., Dkt. No. 951161-EI, Order No. PSC-96-0845-FOF-EI, July 2, 1996 (Fla.P.S.C.).

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PUC Loans Would Bolster ISO, Power Exchange

Lori A. Burkhart

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved loan guarantees of up to $250 million to fund development of computer hardware and software to help the electric industry establish the independent system operator (ISO) and the Power Exchange (PX), both key components of the CPUC's proposed restructuring plan.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co. each had asked for $112.5 million in loan guarantees; San Diego Gas & Electric Co. had asked for $25 million.

Cost Decoupling Placed on Hold

Phillip S. Cross

While approving an increase in base rates of $26.8 million for Pacific Power and Light Co., the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) has rejected a proposal to adopt a revenue decoupling mechanism and establish a systems benefits charge as part of the rate ruling.

Staff Report Wants "Go Slow" Restructuring

Lori A. Burkhart

A 400-page report by Virginia State Corporation Commission staff concludes that Virginia's best interest will be served by a slow and carefully analyzed move toward electric utility competition, rather than by immediate, massive restructuring.

Maine Plan Would Spin Off Generation

Phillip S. Cross

A draft plan issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to restructure the state's electric industry, currently under review at the state legislature, would require investor-owned utilities to separate operation of generation assets from the rest of the company by 2000, and to divest themselves of those assets by 2006.

The plan would also require retail electric suppliers to maintain a minimum block of renewable supply, and recommend that the state legislature fund low-income assistance currently provided as part of utility rate structures through a general tax

R.I. Legislates Restructuring

Lori A. Burkhart

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond has signed the state's new legislation on electric restructuring, known as "The Utility Restructuring Act of 1996" (Public Law Chapter 316), which mandates customer choice by July 1, 1998, or sooner if neighboring states offer retail access before that time.

The law authorizes a 2.8-cent-per-kilowatt-hour stranded-cost surcharge, but allows compensation only for those assets that the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) deems eligible for recovery in prior rate cases or settlements.

Marginal Cost Drives Electric Rate Design

Phillip S. Cross

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a new multi-year revenue requirement and rate design plan for Maine Public Service Co. (MPS) designed to serve as "the starting point for MPS and its customers' participation in an increasingly competitive market."

The plan allocates an overall revenue increase of 4.4 percent to produce a 5.5-percent increase in residential rates and a 7.5-percent hike in commercial rates. Other customer groups will see smaller boosts in rates or slight reductions.

NiMo Seeks to Buy Out IPP Contracts

Lori A. Burkhart

Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NiMo) has offered to terminate 44 contracts, constituting 90 percent of electricity bought from independent power producers (IPPs), in exchange for a combination of cash and securities.

NiMo claimed the move would allow implementation of its PowerChoice proposal, which would permit customers to choose their electric supplier. The plan calls for NiMo to create a separate, nonnuclear generating company. Although details remain confidential, NiMo chairman and CEO William E.

Indiana Launches LEC Competition

Phillip S. Cross

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (URC) has opened the state's local telephone market to competition by ordering local exchange carriers (LECs) to offer "bundled resale" of retail local exchange and related services.

The ruling applies to the state's two major LECs, Ameritech and GTE North, as well as to other smaller companies subject to the provisions of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Act).

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