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Murkowski's Senate Panel Hears Consumers Groups

Fortnightly Magazine - August 1997

price decreases of 40 percent and more.

According to an ECA poll conducted in April, Johnson noted, 55 percent of electric consumers are "unaware of efforts at the state or national level to restructure the industry." One key to making competition happen, then, is a partnership between Congress and the states. While many issues raised by restructuring are local in nature, Johnson said, some sort of federally imposed mandate (em on PURPA and PUHCA reform and clarification of states' authority (em "may have a place down the road." t

Lori M. Rodgers is an associate editor of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY and editor of PUR's Energy Buyers Advisory.

Reliability: A Federal Issue?

Though it has performed well for regulated electric utilities as a voluntary, self-help organization, the North American Electric Reliability Council (em NERC, for short (em faces an uncertain future in a competitive electric industry.Should Congress impose a governing structure on NERC, with federal agency oversight?

At the hearing, Sen. Murkowski assured the witnesses: "I will not allow reliability to become a back-door means to preempt state control over electric utilities and federalize the day-to-day operations of the electric industry,"

David Nevius, vice president of NERC, said he was "gratified" to hear support for reliability from Sen. Murkowski, since, said Nevius, "reliability is an issue I live with every day."

Officially, NERC has no position on retail competition. Nevertheless, as Nevius explained, "The bottom line is that we can and will ensure reliability." To that end, he said, the council is committed to the process of reshaping NERC to keep pace with the changes taking place in the electricity industry.

In May, NERC's board of trustees (em primarily composed of electric industry executives (em agreed to add two customer representatives to the board and major committees. NERC also has asked experts from inside and outside the industry to perform a study to recommend a new structure for NERC that could be put in place in "a timely fashion." That study, scheduled to begin last month, should be completed and presented to the NERC board of trustees next year, in January.


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