Distributed Generation. California opened a rulemaking proceeding to consider regulatory reforms in electricity distribution service, with a possible focus on distributed...
One of these days you may see a former chairman of the American Gas Association become the new chair of the Edison Electric Institute. Or maybe the other way around.
I broached this subject the other day when I found myself downtown at EEI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, talking with some association reps. It led to some uncomfortable muttering and shuffling of feet.
Imagine Robert Catell (Brooklyn Union) or Richard Farman (Pacific Enterprises, SoCal Gas) as chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, or Thomas Page (Enova, San Diego Gas & Electric) or William Grigg (Duke Power) at A.G.A. With all the mergers now on tap, nothing is impossible.
Now imagine what sort of marketing job all this will pose for EEI and A.G.A., to differentiate their respective associations. You can guess where I'm heading. Just look at the Electric Generation Association and the National Independent Power Producers, now merged into one group, the Electric Power Supply Association.
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Philosophers can debate how natural gas and electricity stack up. And so can our readers.
We tackled the subject late last year in our December issue, when we featured a view from the gas side alleging that electric utilities (and regulators) have used resource planning and demand-side management programs as a ploy to build electric load at the expense of gas. That piece, contributed by Mark Krebs, of Laclede Gas, drew a sharp reply from Steven Rosenstock, speaking for EEI. (See Mailbag, p. 10.) Another letter arrived just as we were going to press. So we made room and squeezed it into the column you're reading now. Maybe it will put the matter to rest.
But from what I see, serious impediments still block full and fair competition between electricity and gas (em impediments that surely must be swept away if these new gas-electric mergers are to succeed.
Take Illinois, for example.
Late last year, on the day before New Year's Eve, an Illinois appeals court ruled that if an electric utility files a least-cost plan to implement demand-side resources, it can reject a proposal by a gas utility to include gas-fired technologies for consideration. See, Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, No. 1-95-1624, Dec. 30, 1996 (Ill.App.,1st Dist.)
That ruling blocked a move by Peoples Gas Light, and Coke Co., and North Shore Gas Co. to introduce a gas-cooling pilot program in a DSM program operated by Commonwealth Edison.
North Shore and Peoples Gas had asked the state commerce commission to accept their pilot program. A witness, William F. Hederman, had testified about how the gas pilot program would allow certain large commercial electric customers to switch to gas-powered air conditioning.
But Commonwealth Edison refused, and the judges agreed, deciding that state law barred the gas program:
"Peoples Gas argues that its gas-cooling pilot program should be viewed as conservation. ... We disagree. 'Conservation,' as that term is used in [the law] means 'reductions in the use of electricity' ... Such fuel switching does not meet the definition of 'conservation.'"
What's a gas man to do?