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Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1997

Censored PUC Report Raises Ire

Lori A. Burkhart

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has refused to issue its 1996 report card of the state's electric, telephone, natural gas and water utilities. The reports usually are issued on an annual basis to little fanfare, but with the advent of varying degrees of competition, the commissioners have disagreed over the amount of performance information that should be released.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the controversy began when PUC Commissioner Robert Bloom wanted sections of the report removed that could cause discomfort to some utilities.

Gas DSM Programs Approved

Phillip S. Cross

The Florida Public Service Commission has approved a set of conservation programs proposed by Peoples Gas System Inc., the only natural gas local distribution company in the state required by law to offer such programs.

The LDC had recently updated its existing program evaluation data in conformance with new review criteria adopted by the commission in 1995. Checking each program for cost effectiveness, the commission permitted the LDC to use gas supply costs that were lower than those reflected in the company's purchased-gas adjustment rate.

University Fights Stranded-Cost Fee

Lori A. Burkhart

Lawyers for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Feb. 4 argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court that their client should not be made to pay $6 million to Cambridge Electric Light Co. to cover stranded costs for building its own $50 million on-campus generating plant, as directed by the state utility commission. MIT said it would never have built the plant had it known about the fee. A ruling is expected in the spring.

States Expand Gas Transportation Programs

Phillip S. Cross

Regulators in Michigan and Florida have taken steps to expand programs for transportation of customer-owned gas.

In Michigan, the state public service commission will test the idea of expanding transportation service to residential and commercial users for two gas distribution utilities, plus allowing some aggregation to meet volume requirements. In Florida, the PSC will explore the idea of aggregating facilities owned by different customers.

Michigan. Tests in Michigan will involve Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. and Consumers Power Co.

Utilities Clash in Chicago

Lori A. Burkhart

Wisconsin Electric Power Co., outbid about 60 companies to supply electricity to Chicago's Public Housing Authority, now served by Commonwealth Edison Co., which says it will refuse wheeling services. The housing authority says the deal with WEP would allow it to shave about $5 million off its $10-million, annual CE electric bill. The authority currently pays CE roughly 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, but would pay less than 3 cents per kWh to WEP, excluding wheeling charges. The dispute may well end up before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

IPPs Lose Bid To Supply N.J. Utility

Phillip S. Cross

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has approved a proposal by Jersey Central Power and Light Co., an electric utility, to meet its short-to-medium-term power needs by purchasing power from utility-owned generating facilities located in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Under the agreement, the utility will purchase a total of 700 megawatts of power over an eight-year period from Pennsylvania Power and Light Co., Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.

Co-op Would Offer Green Power

Lori A. Burkhart

The Dakota Electric Association, which buys its power from Cooperative Power of Eden Prairie, Minn., has asked the Minnesota Public Utility Commission to allow it to provide its members the option to purchase energy generated from renewable resources. Energy produced by wind generators would be made available to consumers in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of energy. Customers would be allowed to purchase blocks equal to their normal monthly usage. A 12-month commitment would be required. The cost of each 100-kWh block would be slightly higher to reflect the higher cost of wind energy. Lori A.

Marketing Affiliate Questioned as Utility Shifts Rates

Phillip S. Cross

While approving a

three-year settlement on electric rates for Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., the New York Public Service Commission has accepted a highly controversial increase in minimum charges for low-use residential customers.

It also approved a plan to establish an

$11-million, ratepayer-supported fund to promote additional sales to large, alternate-fuel customers, but warned the company that the court would closely monitor relations between the utility and its energy marketing affiliate, Plum Street Energy Marketing.

Bipartisan Energy Politics? 105th Congress Takes on Electric Restructuring in Earnest

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

"It's going to take a lost of time to understand all the pies."

It's almost spring. There's a new energy secretary(emisn't there? And at least for new electric restructuring bills in Congress. Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) is chairing "workshops" on deregulation at the Energy and Natural Resources committee.

Everyone's wondering: Which bill take hold? Where will it be and how will it look by the end of the legislative session: dead, alive, or limp?

"Primergy" Merger in Limbo

Lori A. Burkhart

Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann has been appointed to investigate allegations that Wisconsin PSC member Dan Eastman acted improperly by talking with Wisconsin Energy Chairman Richard Abdoo and others about the proposed "Primergy" merger between WE and Northern States Power Co., prompting sources to speculate that too many delays could kill the merger.

The Minnesota PUC reportedly is also investigating ex parte allegations, but Minnesota DPU Administrative Law Judge Allan Klein has ruled that the merger would not be harmful or anti-competitive.

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