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Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

Real Water Rates on the Rise

Janice A. Beecher, and Patrick C. Mann

While the prices play catch up, utilities and regulators should start looking for ways to mitigate costs.

Water utility rate increases have outpaced those of other utilities. In fact, water rate increases since 1984 %n1%n have surpassed the overall rate of inflation. Yet among utility services, water remains a real bargain; consumers spend less on water than on any other utility.

Perspective

James A. Montanye

Does a monopolist aim to maximize profit, or simply to hide from the antitrust laws?

AT&T's absolute monopoly in the switched long-distance telephone market ended in 1976 when MCI rolled out its Execunet service. Twenty years later economists still question whether AT&T can influence the market price of long-distance services.

Recent empirical studies are split on the question, sometimes finding AT&T has considerable market power, and sometimes finding it has none.

It appears that economists studying the long-distance industry may be misinterpreting the historical record.

Increased Exports to Northeast Prove a Dubious Proposition

Christopher Seiple

New England states, feeling threatened by increased pollution from Midwest coal-fired generation, recently began lobbying for tougher national environmental standards tied to electric deregulation legislation. The perceived threat is based on the belief that coal-fired plants in the Midwest with excess capacity will increase exports to higher-cost New England states. This increased generation and exportation could lead to more pollution in the New England states.

Special Report

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Feds prefer legislative solution for now, but warn of bid-rigging, cartel behavior later on, after deregulation.

One of the nation's top antitrust officials told the House Judiciary Committee in June that moves toward utility deregulation should focus first on open access to the transmission grid (em and then resolve that problem through rulemaking or legislation, not antitrust enforcement.

"Antitrust is probably not the best way to address access," said Robert Pitofsky, Federal Trade Commission chair.

How One Company Used ABM

Henry Fayne, and Jim Clark

Changing the culture at American Electric Power.

As the electric industry gears up for competition, attention shifts to things like load migration, technology and customer service. The pressure is rising like never before to identify, catalogue and track costs.

Thus, at American Electric Power Company, we decided two years ago to reengineer much of our internal financial management apparatus, including systems, databases and technology. With the help of consultants, we developed, designed, tested and implemented an activity-based management system.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

When I took this job three years ago, I posed the question, "Price or Service?" in the title of my first frontlines column.I suggested that natural gas utilities appeared willing to sell on price, but not electrics. The CEOs all claim that electricity has become a commodity. But I'll bet the franchise that electric utilities haven't yet figured out whether they are selling electrons (a commodity) or comfort and peace of find (a niche service).

FERC Issues Certificates for Two New Gas Pipelines

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted two certificates for natural gas pipeline projects in the Southeastern U.S. One certificate went to Southern Natural Gas Co. for construction of a controversial pipeline to serve two municipal customers; a second was issued to Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. for the largest single expansion of its pipeline and storage system.

The FERC on May 28 voted 5-0 to grant a certificate to Southern Natural Gas Co. to construct approximately 118 miles of natural gas pipeline to serve two municipal customers.

People

Edison International elected former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to its board and its utility company's board, Southern California Edison. Christopher was elected chair of the executive committees of both boards. Howard P. Allen retired as chair and CEO.

John T. Coughlin, former Wisconsin Public Service commissioner, was elected chair of the PJM Interconnection L.L.C.

Former U.S. Department of State Legal Adviser Conrad K. Harper was elected to the board of both Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., and Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

FERC Easily Approves Second Convergence Combo

Lori A. Burkhart

Marking the second time it had approved a union between an electric utility and a natural gas pipeline company since issuance of its December 1996 merger policy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the merger of Duke Power Co. with PanEnergy Corp.

In its 21-page order issued May 28, the FERC found the merger consistent with the public interest based on an examination of the effect it would have on rates, competition and regulation (Docket No. EC97-13-000).

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