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Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1997

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Natural Gas Briefs

Gas Motor Vehicles. Federal appeals court revokes antitrust immunity in suit by California CNG, Inc., alleging that Southern California Gas sought to dominate gas vehicle (NGV) refueling market by offering "free or virtually free" installation and maintenance of refueling facilities for NGV fleet operators. No. 95-55806, Sept. 19, 1996, 96 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir.).

Interdepartmental Transfers.

Commission Examines LDC Plan to Slash Industrial Rates

Phillip S. Cross

The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) has criticized a request by Shenandoah Gas Co. to require its residential and commercial customers to pay the lion's share of a newly approved rate increase, citing the utility's cost studies as "flawed" and its cost allocations as having compounded the error.

The company had argued that its cost studies showed that interruptible customers were already generating a 45 percent rate of return, while rates for its firm customers produced a negative return on the investment necessary to serve them.

Courts Affirms Benefits Ruling

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld a ruling by the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) permitting Equitable Gas Co., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to recover costs associated with a switch from pay-as-you-go to accrual accounting for post-retirement benefits other than pensions (PBOPs) under Statement of Financial Accounting Standards 106.

The state's Office of Consumer Advocate had appealed the decision, claiming that in approving a nounanimous settlement the PUC had failed to determine whether the utility needed the cost recovery to achieve a fair ra

Ratepayers Fund Losses, Write-offs, but Not Catastrophes

Phillip S. Cross

In two recent rulings, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized electric utilities to call upon ratepayers to help cover losses from rate discounts and write off sunk investment in nuclear power plants. Ratepayer contributions in each case will come through incentive clauses by which revenues or losses are shared on an 80-20 basis between customers and company stockholders.

Rate Discounts. In one case, the PSC allowed Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.

Residential Pilot Programs: Who's Doing, Who's Dealing?

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Residential Pilot Programs:

Doing,

Dealing?

Customer choice and electric restructuring may appear synonymous to regulators, but for utilities "choice" means "market share."

THERE WERE 19 PILOT PROGRAMS

planned or underway in the United States by the end of November, involving some 500,000 customers in all classes. The goal? To test competition in retail electric markets.

In the residential class, pilots were operating in Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York. Massachusetts expected to roll out its pilot by January 1. Pennsylvania was planning an April startup.

Off Peak

Options, that is, as they pass the nationwide median in long-term pay incentives (em more than their counterparts at transportation or industrial firms (em but still less than execs at automotive and consumer companies.

Among CEOs (chief executive officers) at consumer products companies, industrial concerns, and transportation firms, top executives at energy companies can now boast of long-term pay incentives accounting for some 44 percent of their overall annual pay packages.

Load Aggregation: The Wolf at the Door?

Ben Blumberg, and Jonathon Shaevitz

Load Aggregation:

The Wolf at the Door?

Of course, there's nothing to stop a utility from aggregating its own customers.

WHAT, EXACTLY, IS LOAD "AGGREGATION?" Is it a threat, an opportunity, or merely a sales tactic?

Actions taken in California, as well as in pilot programs across the country, place customer aggregation on the leading edge of efforts to pull native load from electric utilities.

Ironically, present-day utilities already "aggregate" their customers (em albeit into a single group.

Is Competition Lacking in Electric Generation? (And Why It Should Not Matter)

Judah Rose, Shanthi Muthiah, and Maria Fusco

Incumbent monopolists won't command high premiums

if newcomers can rebuild capacity from scratch at a cheaper price.

At first glance, many of the nation's regional markets for wholesale electric generation appear monopolistic. In some of the 18 regional power markets we have identified, the leading companies account for 75 to 90 percent of the area's generating assets. In other markets, where the concentration problem does not yet seem as pressing, mergers and acquisitions threaten to raise levels of concentration of ownership in generation.

Price Behavior in Electricity Futures: The Story So Far

Anna Godlewska, Antonio S. Mello, and John E. Parsons

What do the first months of trading say about the spread between spot markets and futures prices?

ust over nine months ago the New York Mercantile

Exchange opened trading in the first-ever electricity futures contracts. As occurred

previously in oil and gas, futures trading in electricity

promises to play a central role in

commodity markets (em markets that are gradually evolving as competitive.

Electricity futures also provide a valuable tool for managers at utilities or other power producers.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Ever since word hit the street last July that Portland General Electric Co. (PGE) would merge with gas industry giant Enron, the news has been rather one-sided. It's been "Enron this" and "Enron that." From reading the papers one might think Enron, with its strong reputation as a commodities trader, was buying an entire electric utility simply to take a bigger position on the NYMEX futures market.

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