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Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1997

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Wall Street loves stranded costs. No kidding. For stockbrokers and underwriters accustomed to selling utility issues to widows and orphans, the prospect of asset-backed financing opens a whole new world. I'm talking here about "securitizing" stranded costs.

In a securitization, a trust takes beneficial title to utility assets (tangible or intangible) that have lost their value in the market, and sells "transition bonds" to a new set of investors, funneling the bond sales proceeds back to the utility and to its equity investors. Who pays the coupon? Why, it's the customer of course.

NGSA Claims Gas Could Be Hurt By Restructuring

Lori A. Burkhart

The Natural Gas Supply Association said that electric restructuring bills proposed in Congress and by the Clinton Administration contain several provisions that could "significantly" and "unfairly" reduce the competitiveness of gas-fired electricity.

NGSA warned that utilities likely will dispatch electricity from different fuel sources in order of lowest-to-highest marginal cost, and the marginal costs of gas-fired power generally are higher than power fired by coal, nuclear and hydro.

People

John Yurkanin was appointed senior v.p. of marketing and sales for LG&E Natural. Yurkanin joined LG&E in 1996 and served as senior v.p., producer services. Yurkanin will direct LG&E in expanding marketing presence with utilities and other marketers. Also at LG&E, Mark Stanger was appointed v.p., producer services. Stanger will direct service business, including contracting for new sources of gas supply and managing relationships with current suppliers.

Commissioner Hullihen Williams Moore will serve as chairman of the State Corporation Commission for the next year.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Gas Supply Affiliates. Arkansas oks plan by Arkla to continue to rely on NorAm Gas Transmission Co. (an affiliate) for the bulk of its supply requirements, but directs the utility to evaluate its supply options and to "be prepared" to shift to an independent supplier for gas inventory and capacity. NorAm agreed to "rachet-down" its price to meet third-party offers. Docket No. 95-401-U, Order No. 34, Jan. 9, 1997 (Ark.P.S.C.).

Electronic Billing. Michigan regulators approve program by Consumers Power Co.

Mailbag

Why We Sign Those Secret Deals

Out here in the trenches, Professor William Shepherd's attempts to correlate anti-competitive pricing strategies with market dominance will take a while to sink in, mostly because the politics seem to get in the way of clear thinking. While his article ("Anti-Competitive Impacts of Secret Strategic Pricing in the Electricity Industry," Feb. 15, 1997, p.

New Hampshire Issues Final Plan for Electric Restructuring

Phillip S. Cross

PUC endorses direct access, plant divestiture and limits on recovery of stranded costs. Says order will not interfere with 1990 bankruptcy plan for Northeast Utilities. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has issued its final plan for restructuring the state's electric industry, at the same time announcing what is believed to be the first formal policy decision by a state utility commission that would deny full recovery of costs left "stranded" by the transition to competition.

Released on Feb.

Trends

Christopher Seiple

According to a new study we have conducted at Resource Data International, the continuing transformation from a regulated industry to a fully competitive industry will create substantial opportunities for new generating companies. With the implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the FERC's Orders 888 and 889, competition has been introduced into wholesale power markets. It is limited in scope, however, as utilities are still able to recover their fixed generation costs and embedded cost of capital from their captive retail markets.

Calif. Reaffirms Direct Access, But Pushes Public Purpose Programs

Phillip S. Cross

In a pair of orders issued the same day, the California Public Utilities Commission has denied requests to modify its plan for electric industry restructuring, as set out in its Final Policy Decision of Dec. 20, 1995 (see 166 PUR4th 1), but has initiated new "public service programs" to continue support for energy efficiency and low-income assistance efforts.

Joules

Stone & Webster will lead a consortia building a $109 million geothermal power plant for Amoseas Indonesia, Inc. The project calls for a second and third unit at the Darajat geothermal station, which taps into geothermal fields in the Garut Regency of West Java, Indonesia. Each unit has a capacity of 70 MW. The entire project was set to be finished by early 2000. Stone & Webster's portion of the contract is worth about $40 million.

Westinghouse Electric Corp. contracted to supply a barge-mounted power plant for the Port of Mombassa Power Barge Project in Malaysia.

Ohio Approves Centerior Rate Plan

Phillip S. Cross

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission has approved a rate plan for Toledo Edison Co. and Cleveland Electric Illuminating, under which the two electric utilities will freeze both base rates and fuel charges and agree to reduce their present investment in generating station and related assets.

The plan will take effect only if Centerior Energy Corp., the holding company for both utilities, is successful in its proposed merger with Ohio Edison Co. (The approved plan is similar in many ways to one the commission had authorized for Ohio Edison in 1995 (em see Case No.

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