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Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1997

Public Power: An Inexpensive Insurance Policy Against Consolidation

Alan Richardson

An Editorial Response:

Some critics wants PMAs out of the electric business. But that could leave market power to a few, large monopolies.

Department of Energy Secretary Federico Peña observed in an address at the recent annual meeting of the Edison Electric Institute: "The [electric utility] industry is incredibly diverse, with investor-owned utilities, municipalities, cooperatives, the federal power system, independent power producers, marketers and others.

Perspective

William A. Mogel

Uncle Sam buys a lot of power. Who supplies it may depend upon Article I, Sec. 8, Clause 17.

Today's intense competition to sell power should not overlook one large customer - the federal government. The Department of Defense alone consumed $1.4 billion worth of power in fiscal year 1994. Recently, one utility executive was quoted as saying: "We've got power marketers foaming at the mouth for DOD's business."%n1%n

Yet how does a marketer get the business of a federal agency, office or installation if retail wheeling is not mandated?

N.Y. Restructures Gas Rates to Lure Competitive Supplies

Phillip S. Cross

The New York Public Service Commission has directed Consolidated Edison Co. to modify its gas transportation rates to more accurately reflect costs.

The commission said that the tariff revisions mark a "major step" for a service territory where competition between the utility and gas marketers had not yet developed.

People

President Clinton appointed James J. Hoecker chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Hoecker, former commissioner of the FERC, replaces Elizabeth Moler who was appointed deputy energy secretary at the Department of Energy.

Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College, was selected by Secretary of Energy Federico F. Peña to replace Robert Hanfling as chair of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. Also at SEAB, Skila Harris was elected executive director. Prior to her election, Harris was special assistant to Vice President Al Gore.

Enron Corp. promoted Cynthia C.

Special Report

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

Midwest panel fears service decline, sees small companies as speed bumps on road to competition.

"Mergers and restructuring" could have described the panel, but "Four Weddings and a Funeral" gave the session the cinematic spin it demanded.

Craig A.

"Slamming" Complaints Spark Action, Legislation

Phillip S. Cross

The Alabama Public Service Commission has formally requested that state law enforcement officials prosecute a reseller of telecommunications services for ongoing incidents of "deceptive and misleading" marketing activities.

The so-called "slamming" practices include switching customers without documenting their consent. Earlier in the year, the commission had found that Long Distance Services Inc. had engaged in a series of improper practices, including the use of sweepstake boxes, to sign up new customers to its service without proper consent.

Joules

Bay State Gas Co. has sold its 17.5-percent equity interest in the Masspower cogeneration plant to Energy Investors Fund Group. The sale price wasn't released; Bay State said it was more than book value. The 240-megawatt, gas-fired combined-cycle plant provides steam for Monsanto Co.

Bridgeport, Conn., is the planned site of a $260-million, 520-MW power plant. Duke Energy Power Services, United Illuminating Co. and Siemens Power Ventures signed a letter of intent to build the gas-fired, combined-cycle merchant plant.

FERC Deals with Vertical Market Power in Mergers

Lori A. Burkhart

In two separate cases, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the first time has approved an analytical framework for examining vertical market power concerns raised by convergence mergers of gas and electric companies. This new framework applies when market power in one sector (such as natural gas) threatens competition in another (e.g., electricity).

In the first case, the FERC on June 25 conditionally approved the disposition of jurisdictional facilities in the proposed merger of two holding companies, Enova Corp.

Off Peak

Consumers want the credit option, study says.

More than 5 percent of all recurring bills - like phone, magazine and insurance bills - are paid with a credit card (see Chart 1), according to a study conducted by Market Facts Inc. for Visa U.S.A. Yet less than one-half of 1 percent of consumers pull out their plastic to pay utility bills (see Chart 3).

Here's one likely reason: Only 8 percent of all utilities accept credit card payments (see Chart 2). Utilities may want to reconsider their offerings, however.

Midwest Compact Kills Disposal Effort Centerior Asks "Why?"

Lori A. Burkhart

Anatomy of a nuclear waste site death Centerior Energy is mystified. Until June 26, Ohio gladly was on its way to hosting a low-level radioactive waste disposal site. Then suddenly at a three-hour meeting, 13 years of planning crashed and burned.

On that day, the Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission voted to derail development of a low-level waste disposal facility in Ohio. The commission represents the Midwest Compact, which comprises Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

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