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Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1997

Competition to Shut GPU Nuclear Plant

Lori A. Burkhart

The owners of General Public Utilities Corp. are planning either to sell or shut down Oyster Creek nuclear plant, because they claim the plant's above-market electric prices will not be competitive in an open market. The selling price would be set around $700 million.

According to GPU President and COO Fred D. Hafer, the electric generated at Oyster Creek costs the utility about 1 cent to 1.5 cents more per kilowatt-hour than the current market price for energy.

Pennsylvania Reviews Gas Balancing Charges

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has authorized PG Energy Inc. to implement several tariff modifications

regarding balancing charges and transportation service requirements.

It permitted the LDC to impose a balancing charge of $0.66/Decatherm per unit of imbalance on transportation customers and aggregators whose actual daily deliveries of gas vary by more than 2.5 percent of requirements. The commission rejected a proposal to reduce the balancing charge to account for the offsetting nature of usage among transportation users as a whole.

New Jersey Issues Restructuring "Master Plan"

Lori A. Burkhart

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has issued its final master plan on electric restructuring, which could cut electric rates by 10 to 15 percent starting October 1998. The plan allows all customers to choose electric suppliers by July 2000.

The board now will submit "Restructuring the Electric Power Industry in New Jersey: Findings and Recommendations" to the governor and Legislature.

The plan would phase in retail choice, beginning with 10 percent of all residential, commercial and industrial customers, in October 1998.

Off Peak

Downsizing has trimmed the work force, but utilities may have given up those savings by going outside to purchase labor, goods and materials. Electric utilities might be overlooking the obvious (em the rapidly increasing costs of purchased goods and services (em while trying too hard to trim internal costs through downsizing and personnel cuts.

While utilities cut labor costs by less than 1 percent per year from 1992 to 1995, the costs of purchased goods and services rose by an average of more than 4 percent each year (see Chart 1), according to a study of utility economics by A.T.

Georgia Governor Signs Gas Law

Lori A. Burkhart

Georgia Gov. Zell Miller has signed into law the "Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act," which unbundles natural gas services and opens residential gas markets to competition.

Under S.B. 215, in less than three years Atlanta Gas Light Co. and its affiliates, Georgia Natural Gas and Savannah Gas Co., no longer will sell natural gas directly to end users. Instead the companies only will provide delivery service.

PECO Fights for Stranded Costs Recovery

Lori A. Burkhart

PECO Energy Co. has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission to approve its securitization request and reject a recommendation by an administrative law judge that the PUC not allow PECO to recover stranded costs from ratepayers.

On Jan. 22, PECO asked that it be allowed under the state's new electric competition act to refinance $3.6 billion of its electric generation assets through securitization. But on April 14, Judge Louis Cocheres recommended against the proposal. (See Pa PUC Docket No.

North Carolina Oks Duke Merger

Lori A. Burkhart

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved the proposed $7.7-billion merger of Duke Power Co. and Houston-based PanEnergy Corp. to form Duke Energy Corp., subject to conditions designed to protect North Carolina ratepayers from potential adverse effects.

The commission said the merger must ensure that ratepayers of the new company receive no fewer benefits than ratepayers in other jurisdictions.

Perspective

Isaac D. Benkin

Corporations will need FERC approval for a merger simply because they own paper assets that qualify as utility property.

In three companion orders issued April 30, 1997, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission tried to stake out new jurisdictional turf. It attempted to expand its jurisdiction under section 203 of the Federal Power Act to cover "convergent" mergers and reorganizations involving electric utility holding companies and power marketers.

Competitive Efficiency: A Ranking of U.S. Electric Utilities

Hossein Haeri, M. Sami Khawaja, and Matei Perussi

Do mergers and "critical mass" really make a difference? The answer, it seems, is yes.

To become more competitive, U.S. electric utilities have embarked on a quest in recent years to improve operational efficiency and factor productivity. The question is: Are utilities making progress? And, which companies have gained a competitive edge? Which have not?

Industry analysts have long argued that given the structure of the markets they serve and their cost-based, rate-setting procedures, electric utilities tend toward monopolistic behavior.

FERC Asserts Jurisdiction in Nontraditional Mergers

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved three orders that together clarify the Commission's jurisdiction over corporate realignments.

The FERC found on April 30, that while it does not have jurisdiction over mergers of public utility holding companies, it does have jurisdiction over transfers of control (dispositions) of public utility facilities.

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