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1996 Regulators' Forum

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1996

in organizations that represent state interests at the national and international level. . . . I think [that] will become a more important role, because the utilities we regulate are viewing their market as a market that includes international markets."

Q. Are industrial and residential consumers pressuring you to deregulate? How do the grassroots politics in your state differ from elsewhere; what defines your political climate?

A. "They are indicating they believe competition in the retail market can work. And they're asking us to explore those issues or at least ask questions about how. I think it's primarily the industrial consumers because they know how much their electricity costs. . . . It's part of their everyday business decisions. And when they hear that other states are doing it or that it's been done in the United Kingdom, they certainly want us to explore whether it is something that can be implemented in Florida.

"We haven't really heard from [residential consumers] as a cohesive body. We have an office of public counsel and I'm sure, as part of his responsibility, he's keeping in touch with what is going on elsewhere, to see if there are some benefits to be gained by allowing more competition in the electric market. But he hasn't been advocating that.

Q. How active is your state legislature in electric deregulation? When is this participation helpful? When is it intrusive?

A. "They had a bill last year that would have established a task force on deregulation issues. My recollection is it didn't make it out of committee. Our state legislature views deregulation as the commission's responsibility to let them know, to educate them to what is going on as it relates to utilities. And they rely on us to keep up with changes and make an assessment of whether any changes need to be made."

"We have an extremely large senior citizen population that's very active in politics. . . . Organizations such as the AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] have state organizations that participate in our proceedings from time to time and they, too, are kind of watching other states."

Q. What are the pluses and minuses of U.S. Rep. Dan Schaefer's restructuring bill?

A. "One thing that does concern me is the timeframe that he has placed on introducing retail competition in the electric industry. There is an assumption that one size fits all. And I don't think that's the case. . . . We don't have that many large industrial consumers, so what may be appropriate for our state may be vastly different from a Minnesota or a Wisconsin."

Q. Your commission has been somewhat silent on restructuring -- why?

A. "To be clear, we are not sticking our heads in the sand. We have undertaken as a commission to educate our staff on electric restructuring issues and we have scheduled three forums for educating our staff and the commissioners. . . . That doesn't mean we haven't done other things. . . . We recently approved a flexible pricing tariff for Gulf Power Co.