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Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1997

People

The California Public Utilities Commission elected members to two boards overseeing energy efficiency and low-income programs. The board for energy efficiency programs members are: Acting Chair Sara Steck Myers, CEERT; Dave Gamson, CPUC commissioner advisor; Michael Messenger, California Energy Commission; Peter Miller, Natural Resources Defense Council; Mark Thayer, San Diego State University; Ortensia Lopez, Greenlining Institute; Charles Goldman, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory; Michael Shame, UCAN; and Don Schultz, CPUC Office of Ratepayer Advocates.

Moody's Looks at Plant Divestiture

Lori A. Burkhart

Moody's Investors Service has released a report that finds the most significant long-term implication of Order 888 for investors is for potential divestiture of transmission assets by investor-owned utilities.

The Moody's study, FERC Order 888 and Wholesale Competition: Catalyst for a New Market Model, also finds that divestiture by a vertically integrated utility may leave bondholders secured by a lien on relatively risky generating assets of often questionable market value, as opposed to the presently more diverse and balanced asset portfolio.

Mailbag

Authors lost their case. The bright line is preserved.

Unfortunately, PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY did not caution its readers that a recent article ("Gas Pipelines and the Hinshaw Amendment: Conflicts Loom as the 'Bright Line' Fades Between Federal and State Jurisdiction," April 1, 1997, p. 36) is actually a thinly disguised brief for claims that a series of tribunals has rejected, including the U.S. Supreme Court. A warning from the editors would have saved valuable time for readers searching for more substantive coverage of the utility industry.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

IntraLATA Toll Calling. North Carolina says newly certified competitive local exchange telephone carriers must apply for separate authority to provide intraLATA toll services, even though incumbent local carriers need not do so. Docket No. P-100, SUB 133, March 31, 1997 (N.C.U.C.).

Dialing Parity. Oregon PUC adopts policies on telephone dialing parity to allow all telephone users who choose alternate carriers to make calls without dialing extra numbers. Order No. 97-107, March 18, 1997 (Ore.P.U.C.).

Payphone Subsidies.

Trends

Christopher Seiple

In the electric industry restructuring debate lurks an important issue: If utilities recover some level of stranded costs, how do you design a cost recovery mechanism that minimizes stranded costs? This issue is important because, among other things, it will affect total customer savings.

One way to encourage utilities to mitigate stranded costs is to allow recovery of only a portion of costs. For instance, the California stranded cost recovery mechanism provides utilities with a "fair opportunity" to recover all of their stranded costs.

Electric Transmission: Jury Still Out on Flow-Based Pricing

Bruce W. Radford

Dominion Resources touts its "impacted" method, but opponents call it a "stalking horse" (em a scheme to avoid full review at FERC.

Is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prepared to accept true marginal-cost pricing for electric transmission?

With all the criticism leveled at the traditional "contract path," one would think that the FERC would consider a new approach to transmission pricing.

In fact, last year in its final Order No.

Joules

New Environmental Technologies Inc. agreed to acquire Keystone Energy Services Inc. The new company will be called Keystone Energy Services. In an alliance with New Energy Ventures Inc., it plans to target the $22.5-billion California electric market. Keystone will re-sell part of the $500 million worth of power New Energy Ventures recently agreed to buy from the Bonneville Power Administration. Keystone will focus on small- to medium-sized electric consumers while its partner will target industrial, commercial and government accounts.

Maryland Says Electric Merger Won't Harm Market

Phillip S. Cross

The merger of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Potomac Electric Power Co. will not harm consumers by restraining competition in the electric market, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The commission approved the merger provided Baltimore Gas and Electric lowers its customers' electric rates by $43.876 million and PEPCO lowers its Maryland customers' rates by $12.101 million. The competitive effect of the merger was still under examination at the federal level.

Legislative Briefs

State-by-state prospects for electric customer choice.

New Mexico. Public Service Co. of New Mexico asks state PUC to begin collaborative process to draft legislation to allow retail choice of electric suppliers (Case No. 2681). Draft would be proposed to the state's Interim Legislative Committee on integrated Water and Resource Planning, for possible passage in the 1998 legislative session. By mid-June, the utility intends to initiate a plan to allow customer choice by a date certain, defining methods to handle stranded costs and reliability.

Nevada. Nevada Power Co.

N.J. Cautious on Gas Adjustment Clause Reform

Phillip S. Cross

Citing concerns about gas price volatility, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has ruled that Public Service Electric and Gas Co. should maintain its existing annual fuel cost adjustment mechanism rather than shift to a monthly charge as originally proposed for its local gas distribution customers.

Under a settlement approved by the board, the LDC will have the option to impose the monthly charge on its general-service and large-volume customers.

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