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Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1997

Minn. PUC Delays Primergy Vote

Lori A. Burkhart

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has said it will postpone a decision for two months on whether to approve the proposed merger of Northern States Power Co. and Wisconsin Energy Corp. to form "Primergy."

The PUC may not decide the matter until as late as August. A sunset clause kicks in just three months after that time, which would allow the utilities to back out of the deal.

Illinois High Court to Hear Tax Case

Lori A. Burkhart

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal filed by Ogle County tax authorities regarding the valuation of Commonwealth Edison's Byron nuclear plant for the tax years 1989-1992, and whether certain plant assets were taxable as real property or exempt as personal property.

The appeal concerns a December 1996 ruling by an Illinois appeals court that effectively changed an assessment from real to personal property.

Major Coal Study Released

Lori A. Burkhart

The National Coal Council has released the findings of a major new study on coal prepared at the request of former DOE Secretary Hazel O'Leary, which found that while the generation of electricity from coal has increased, emission of pollutants from coal has decreased.

A similar report was released in April, conducted by Mills-McCarthy & Associates, and sponsored by the Western Fuels Association, Inc., the National Mining Association, and the Center for Energy and Economic Development.

"Virtual Utility" Aims for Savings

Lori A. Burkhart

Strategic Energy Ltd. has premiered a "Virtual Utility," allowing electric consumers to shop nationwide for the best-priced power. Strategic Energy's control center will allow it to access real-time energy information and travel the grid to find available electricity.

"This is the beginning of the end of increasing electric rates for consumers nationwide," said Rick Zomnir, president of Strategic Energy Ltd.

Stranded Utilities: How Demographics, Not Management, Caused High Costs and Rates

Glenn D. Meyers, Buckner Wallingford II, and Horace J. DePodwin

And why policy on

stranded costs defies

a traditional legal or

economic analysis.

There are sound economic reasons why policymakers should allow electric utilities to recover stranded costs through a competitively neutral network access charge, or some similar fee. First, differences in the quality of utility management appear to have contributed little to differences in electricity rates among states.

Cinergy To Supply Power

Lori A. Burkhart

The Blue Ridge Power Agency has chosen Cinergy Corp. as the recommended supplier of wholesale electric power to five of its members during a seven-year period starting July 1, 1998.

Blue Ridge is a "joint action agency" that assists in making wholesale supply arrangements for eight municipal electric systems in the western part of Virginia. Cinergy replaces American Electric Power-Virginia as the power supplier, and beat out the other finalists (em AEP, Commonwealth Edison, Enron, and LG&E Power Marketing.

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