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Fortnightly Magazine - August 1997

Michigan Competition Plan Meets Opposition

Lori A. Burkhart, and Phillip S. Cross

Putting aside calls for a faster-paced switch to the new industry format, the Michigan Public Service Commission has adopted a phase-in schedule for customer direct access to alternative electricity suppliers that runs through 2002. The order, which some have said needs additional work, also outlines stranded cost recovery policies and related securitization strategies.

Under the plan, 2.5 percent of each electric utility's retail load will become eligible for customer choice each year from 1997 through 2001, with all customers eligible in 2002.

Pennsylvania Electric Restructuring Continues

Phillip S. Cross

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has taken new steps in its ongoing effort to restructure the state's electric industry, proposing regulations to govern customer choice of energy suppliers and securitization of stranded costs.

The PUC's new actions on retail choice and stranded costs were designed to comply with state legislation passed last December, known as the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act. See, 66 Pa.C.S. secs. 2801 et seq.

In fact, the PUC began last January to implement the new state legislation.

Perspective

Albert J. Budney, Jr.

Canadian markets beckon U.S. utilities, and vice versa, demanding greater access to transmission lines to bridge the gap.

When I took the job of president of Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., way up North, near the Canadian border, I shared the news with a close friend. I told him how excited I was to be joining an innovative team that was out in front, breaking new ground in the competitive arenas rapidly evolving in the electric power industry.

Off Peak

Today's critics decry stranded costs, yet fail to cover their tracks.

Many of today's most vociferous critics of stranded cost recovery were once among the most ardent supporters of the nuclear plants they now disavow.

Back in the '70s, when electric utilities and regulators laid out their long-term plans, nuclear power played a leading role, and American industry largely concurred. Now, however, 20 years later, the business sector sings a new tune. "I told you so," the refrain goes.

Climate Change at the Stack: Posturing Toward Kyoto

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

U.S., rest of the world ponder CO2 emissions, with utilities caught in the middle.

Four months from now, in Kyoto, Japan, international policy negotiators will decide how quickly to curtail carbon dioxide emissions and allay the world's fears of melting ice caps and rising temperatures.

The amendments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or FCCC, are likely to be founded more on world and domestic politics than on science. Industry climatologists, after all, insist the atmosphere is not warming as fast as others predict, and could be, in fact, cooling.

Murkowski's Senate Panel Hears Consumers Groups

Lori M. Rodgers

Pocketbook issues, like all others, tend to split along political lines.

Meeting on June 12, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee focused for the first time on what customers really think about choosing their own energy vendor.

Nevertheless, despite the shift toward pocketbook issues, and away from so-called "inside-the-Beltway" concerns, the testimony came largely from organized consumer groups, and it appeared split down political lines: urban vs. rural, private vs. public, business vs. residential.

OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

OTAG Makes Recommendations to EPA

Does cleaner air mean lighter pockets?

The Ozone Transport Advisory Group has recommended that the EPA should let states adopt a range of emissions levels to help meet ozone standards, which could tap into utilities' profits. The proposal comes two years after OTAG was formed to study region-to-region airborne movements of smog, a byproduct of ozone.

Coal-fired power plants and vehicle exhaust are the biggest contributors to ozone, due to emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Central & SouthWest Power Marketer Gets OK

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 11 approved the request of CSW Power Marketing Inc. to sell energy at market-based rates due to lack of market dominance.

The FERC in May 1996 had denied an application by CSW, an affiliate of Central and South West Corp., to sell power at market-based rates (Docket Nos. ER97-1238-000 and ER96-1348-001). The approval was based on lack of a comparable, open-access transmission tariff on the systems of CSW's public utility affiliates.

Carbon Sequestration: Robin Hoods of the Forest?

Elizabeth Striano

Appearing as tree huggers, utilities draw skeptical reaction from environmentalists.

At first glance, it looks like the same old story: Environmentalists versus utilities. But this time, the utilities are the ones fighting for the forests (em with a twist.

Utilities, major producers of carbon dioxide, believe they've found a cost-effective way to offset emissions through carbon sequestration, or sinks, which means converting pastures to forests or maintaining old-growth groves.

But environmentalists call it an easy way out.

Groups Call Phase-II Filing "Frankenstein"

Lori A. Burkhart

Two California watchdog groups, The Utility Reform Network and Utility Consumers Action Network, have filed a joint protest at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against the proposed structure of California's independent system operator and power exchange (Docket Nos. EC96-19-003 and ER96-1663-003).

The groups believe the proposed structures would hurt small consumers. They noted that although small consumers use about one-third of the state's electricity, they only have two votes out of 26 in both the PX and the ISO.

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