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Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1997

New York Adopts Rules for ESCOs

Lori A. Burkhart

The New York Public Service Commission has adopted eligibility criteria rules for competitive retail energy services companies (ESCOs) seeking to sell electricity in the state.

The state created the March 5 ESCO rules as part of New York's "Competitive Opportunities" proceeding. The rules are consistent with the PSC's May 16, 1996 decision to open markets to wholesale competition in 1997 and to retail competition in 1998. Consumer protections used in the present monopoly environment will be retained during the transition to competition.

Maine Requires Separate Subsidiary for Noncore Services

Phillip S. Cross

Responding to numerous complaints concerning Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.'s entry into the security alarm market, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has set up guidelines for the utility's management of noncore services.

The commission ordered Bangor to: establish a separate subsidiary for its "noncore" utility activities; account for the activities "below-the-line"; and limit its use of certain customer information in providing the ancillary services.

Pa. Utilities File Pilot Plans

Lori A. Burkhart

Investor-owned utilities in Pennsylvania have filed their retail electric competition plans with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to comply with recent legislation requiring customer-choice pilots for 5 percent of the peak load of the state's electric utilities.

PECO Energy Co. has filed a proposed electric choice retail pilot program that would allow about 90,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers to choose their electric suppliers as soon as October and no later than January 1998.

N.M. Approves "New Century" Merger

Phillip S. Cross

The New Mexico Public Utility Commission has authorized, subject to a series of conditions, the proposed merger of Southwestern Public Service Co.

Utilities File Suit Against Arizona

Lori A. Burkhart

Arizona Public Service Co. has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Maricopa County to challenge rules adopted by the Arizona Corporation Commission in December 1996 to open the state's electric industry to competition over a four-year period starting in 1999.

Tennessee Reviews Gas Promotion Costs

Phillip S. Cross

While authorizing Nashville Gas Co. to increase rates by $4.417 million, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority has modified its existing policy on the treatment of advertising expenses in gas rate cases.

The authority abandoned a past policy limiting advertising recovery to 0.5 percent of the company's gross revenues. It also ordered a 50-50 sharing between ratepayers and shareholders. It granted, however, the LDC's request for full recovery of both payroll and nonpayroll "sales promotion" costs, rejecting allegations the costs should be treated as advertising expenses.

N.J. Utility Raises Emissions Disclosure Issues

Lori A. Burkhart

Public Service Electric & Gas Co. has asked the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to impose mandatory environmental disclosure requirements on all power providers who wish to compete in the state's market.

Specifically, the utility wants an environmental consumer protection standard requiring all sellers planning to compete in New Jersey periodically to disclose their system-wide emission rates or that of the source from which power is produced.

Off Peak

Everybody's got an opinion on electric competition, and they're dying to be asked.

Last year the Colorado Public Utilities Commission opened Docket No. 96Q-313E, In the Matter of the Inquiry Into Electric Utility Industry Restructuring. Then, after weighing several options, and rather than preempt the policy discussion, the PUC mailed a 26-page questionnaire to 360 people identified as "having an interest" in electric utility issues, including investor-owned electric utilities, rural electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and others.

What it learned could fill a book ....

Distributed Generation: Report Finds Benefits

Lori A. Burkhart

A new report found advances in distributed electric generation, noting a pronounced shift since the early 1990s toward on-site generation, as electronic control systems now allow for remote dispatching, and combustion turbine engines are smaller, more powerful and offer increased energy efficiency.

North American Distributed Generation System Markets, produced by Frost & Sullivan, said that the Clean Air Act of 1972, and subsequent amendments made over the last 25 years, have influenced technologies.

Palm Springs Develops Utility

Lori A. Burkhart

The Palm Springs City Council has approved a contract with Portland General Corp., the parent company of Portland General Electric, which specifies the roles and responsibilities of both parties as the city establishes a new utility, "City of Palm Springs Energy Services."

Last December, Palm Springs had selected Portland General to become the city's new energy services partner to help it develop a municipal utility to compete in a deregulated marketplace.

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