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Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1997

Three "Workshops" Down, More "Work" to Do

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Electric's Players Tell Senate Panel Where to Jump In, Butt Out

With three hearings behind it, what has the Senate panel on electric restructuring learned from regulators, utility execs and other industry types who have testified?

Granted, some candor has emerged from all the maneuvering and positioning typical of electric industry and sector leaders, but is that enough for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to develop a position on federal legislation, without input from energy consumers and the voting public?

Sen. Frank H.

Foundation Decries Lavish Recovery

Lori A. Burkhart

The Heritage Foundation has released its second report in a series on electric deregulation, aimed at capturing the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill now holding hearings on proposed legislation to restructure the electric industry.

The new report, Electricity Deregulation: Separating Fact From Fiction in the Debate Over Stranded Cost Recovery, by Adam D. Thierer, concludes that lavish stranded cost recovery is not justified, and that the "sky will not fall" if stranded cost recovery is limited or denied.

FERC Approves Merger

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the merger of Public Service Co. of Colorado and Southwestern Public Service Co. to create "New Century Energies" (Docket Nos. EC96-2-000 and EC96-2-001).

In a separate order, the FERC has approved the open access transmission tariff for Southwestern Public Service, Public Service Co. of Colorado, and its subsidiary, Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power Co. (Docket No. ER96-2572-000).

Public Service Co. of Colorado and Southwestern Public Service Co. had filed an unopposed settlement agreement.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Coal Tar Cleanup. Minnesota court affirms ruling by state regulators requiring Interstate Power Co.'s natural gas customers to contribute to costs for cleaning up the company's manufactured gas plants, since the plants were "used and useful" when the pollution occurred (though the wastes were not deemed hazardous until 1980). No. C1096-1558, Feb. 18, 1997 (Minn.Ct.App.).

AT&T's New Market. Washington allows AT&T Communications of the Pacific Northwest Inc.

Gas Marketing Affiliates: Why Mandate a Corporate Separation?

Pamela L. Prairie

Competitors would have LDCs quit the merchant function and restrict

their dealings with affiliated marketers. But is that really good for consumers?

Those who would restrict business dealings between natural gas local distribution companies and their marketing affiliates (em going so far as to ban LDCs from the merchant function (em often overlook one critical downside: what those rules would mean for the small gas customer.

A regulatory policy for a code of conduct and LDC merchant service must improve the position of consumers.

Three States Approve Bell/NYNEX Merger

Phillip S. Cross

Regulators in Maine, Vermont and New York have approved the proposed merger of two of the country's largest local exchange carriers, NYNEX and Bell Atlantic Corp.

All three states imposed similar conditions on their approval designed to protect the interests of ratepayers in the region. The conditions also address concern over how the merger might affect competition in the local exchange market, a high-profile regulatory effort already under way in each state.

Vermont and Maine.

Electric/Gas Convergence, Meter-to-Meter

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Enova/PE merger finds

California utilities learning

how to "micro-unbundle."

here's a meter war ticking away out West, pitting natural gas against electricity.

Enova Corp. is set to acquire Southern California Gas Co. through a merger with the gas utility's parent company, Pacific Enterprises. This strategy raises a tantalizing question: Can the new, merged company sell electricity "through" SoCalGas meters, using customer contacts on the gas side to grab market share in electricity from Southern California Edison, whose territory overlaps that of SoCalGas?

N.Y. Approves Electric Retail Access Pilot

Phillip S. Cross

As part of its ongoing efforts to reform the state's electric utility industry, the New York Public Service Commission has approved a multi-utility, retail-access pilot program for commercial farms and food processors.

Dairylea Cooperative Inc., an agricultural cooperative with 3,500 members and affiliates in the state, submitted the proposal, one of six received by the commission under its recent restructuring initiative.

Gas-fired Generation: Can Renewable Energy Reduce Fuel Risk?

Michael C. Brower, and Brian Parsons

Some in Congress would link customer choice with a portfolio standard. How would that play in a wholesale power market where gas turbines rule the roost?

By Michael C. Brower and Brian Parsons

WHAT KINDS OF POWER PLANTS WILL

get built in a deregulated electric industry? If recent history offers any guide, utilities and independent power companies will succumb to the traditional wisdom and invest in gas-fired combustion turbines and combined-cycle plants. Sound reasons may exist for doing so. The plants are less expensive than conventional steam plants. They put less capital at risk.

Energy Market Structure Issues Dominate Wisconsin Rate Cases

Phillip S. Cross

In a series of rulings regarding Wisconsin Electric Power Co.,

the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has directed the

utility to reduce electric charges and natural gas service rates.

In a similar ruling, the commission also has authorized Wisconsin Public Service Corp. to boost rates for natural gas, while trimming rates for electric service.

Wisconsin Electric. The commission ordered Wisconsin Electric to cut electric rates by $7.383 million. Rate of return on common equity was set at 10.8 percent.

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