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Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1997

Utilities to Settle Merger Termination Suit

Lori A. Burkhart

Central and South West Corp. has settled its pending litigation with El Paso Electric Co., resolving issues surrounding the 1993 termination of their proposed merger.

Central and South West will pay El Paso Electric $35 million, while both utilities have agreed to release all future claims against each other. In April, a bankruptcy judge ruled that Central and South West owed El Paso Electric a $25-million merger termination fee under their agreement, and said Central and South West also might owe an additional $18 million in interest.

Maine Lowers Telco Access Charges

Phillip S. Cross

Responding to directives from its Legislature, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has directed local-exchange telephone carriers to lower their per-minute, common-line charge by 20 percent, but without changing the access charge rate structure.

At the same time, it rejected a proposal by New England Telephone and Telegraph Co. to adjust the local carrier's recently approved price-cap plan to reflect a predicted erosion in revenues. The PUC found no evidence that a cut in access rates would depress local carrier revenues.

Wisconsin Combo Called a "Natural Outcome"

Lori A. Burkhart

WPS Resources Corp. and Upper Peninsula Energy Corp., which have a history of working together on power sales and emergency dispatch, are merging.

WPS Resources Corp.'s main subsidiary, Wisconsin Public Service Corp., is an electric and gas utility serving 400,000 customers. Upper Peninsula Energy Corp.'s main subsidiary, Upper Peninsula Power Co., has 48,000 electric customers.

The acquisition is structured as a stock swap valued at $71.4 million. Holders of Upper Peninsula common stock will receive 0.90 shares of WPS stock for each share held.

Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co.

Idaho Supports DSM: Florida Retreats

Phillip S. Cross

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has rejected a request by Intermountain Gas Co. to cut demand-side management and conservation requirements from its integrated resource planning guidelines, despite company claims that reforms were needed to align the planning process with current business practices.

Meanwhile, the Florida Public Service Commission has authorized Florida Power and Light Co. to terminate an existing research and development program for a new gas-driven technology.

Idaho.

SoCalGas Gets Performance Order

Lori A. Burkhart

Having approved a performance-based ratemaking mechanism for Southern California Gas Co., the California Public Utilities Commission is free to rule on the merger of Pacific Enterprises (parent company of SoCal Gas) and Enova Corp., which owns San Diego Gas and Electric Co.

The PBR should reduce annual revenues by $160 million. If earnings exceed the authorized 9.49-percent rate of return, then a portion will be returned to customers.

The PBR is effective for five years.

Off Peak

Follow the arrows as California's direct access workshops map out who will have access to electric customer data.

In its latest order implementing direct access for electric customers, the California Public Utilities Commission told Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to conduct workshops to recommend rules on the release of customer information in a deregulated electric industry.

The PUC offered guidelines.

S&P Revamps Public Power Rating Scale

Lori A. Burkhart

Standard & Poor's has revised its business profile scale for public power agencies to give investors more details to figure out each rated utility's ability to compete in a deregulated market.

It expanded its five-point scale to a 10-point scale, similar to the rating system used for investor-owned utilities. A "1" rating is the "most capable of competing," so that investors can better gauge a public power's ability to meet competitive challenges and market developments, such as separation of generation and transmission facilities.

The Union Label: Electric Restructuring's Hidden Side

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

In union circles, they call it "burial insurance." That apt phrase denotes the severance, early retirement and re-training packages negotiated for veteran utility workers sideswiped by a changing market.

So far, labor has won some insurance: through legislation in California and in Maine; through a commission order in Massachusetts; and a pending settlement agreement in New York City, prompted by a commission order.

Labor lost hard in Pennsylvania and in Rhode Island, however. Worker protections weren't built into restructuring decisions in those states.

PUC Chair Quain Eyes Gas Competition

Lori A. Burkhart

John Quain, chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, who helped draft legislation to introduce electric competition in his state, predicts that natural gas deregulation is next on the agenda.

In fact, the Gas Customer Choice Act was pending in the House and Senate in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Speaking at the American Gas Association's Natural Gas Roundtable on July 16 in Washington, D.C., Quain predicted a customer choice bill would be signed either this calendar year or early in 1998.

Energy Marketing: Is There Added Value in Value Added?

Alex Henney, Jeff Percival, and Ken Simmonds

In Norway and in England and Wales, power retailers are learning hard lessons.

The U.S. electric industry has long tried to follow Thomas Edison's dictum "to sell light instead of current" (em to get beyond the meter. But what is beyond the meter at industrial and commercial sites?

In energy-intensive industries one sees processes such as smelters, pulp mills, rolling mills, refineries and chemical plants. In general manufacturing, although some electricity is used for specialized electrotechnologies, most is used for lighting, motive power, computing and robotics.

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