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Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1996

Mailbag

I am shocked that a respected and learned analyst of the utility industry like Charles Studness would espouse a position that stranded-cost recovery is somehow "un-American" ("Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Un-American," Financial News, July 15, 1996, p. 43).

Contrary to the claims of Mr. Studness, recovery of stranded cost is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Stranded Costs: Qualified Financing for Intangible Assets

A new law could help New York utilities reduce electric rates

and improve their balance sheets.

Legislation recommended by Gov. Pataki on June 1, 1996, seeks to provide the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) with a new financial tool to address possible stranded costs as the state moves toward a competitive retail electric market.

Mailbag

Charles Studness is not the type of person I would like to loan money to. I say this because if interest rates dropped in the future he would believe he was now entitled to borrow at the lower rates and not pay me what was owed.

In his latest diatribe against stranded-cost recovery ("Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Un-American," Financial News, July 15, 1996, p. 43), Studness tells us that recovery of stranded costs will keep Americans from purchasing electricity at the competitive price.

It certainly will; however, first all debts must be paid.

SDG&E to Try Adjustment Clause for Cost of Capital

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) to switch to an automatic adjustment mechanism to determine cost of capital (em a move that could save the utility approximately $100,000 per year in regulatory costs.

Mailbag

Chairman Miller's prediction that consumers and not producers will set future electricity prices is correct, assuming a competitive market. His observation (em that "states that move decisively to a competitive environment and that clear their decks of the debris of electricity companies' stranded costs as quickly as possible will be the winners" (em is equally correct. But estimates of stranded investments range from $20 to $500 billion. Who will pay to clear those "decks"?

Muni Can't Skim Cream in Annexed Area

Phillip S. Cross

The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that a municipal utility must serve all customers in new areas that it takes over by annexation (em not just a select few.

Moreover, the city must compensate the former supplier of utility services for any dedicated facilities, even if it uses its own municipal facilities to serve the new area. However, the city will owe compensation for lost profits only if the municipality fails to obtain the prior consent of the supplier or to pay for the cost of the associated facilities.

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