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Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1997

News of Coal's Demise Could Prove Premature

Kent Knutson

Despite recent announcements by the Environmental Protection Agency to place additional restraints on power plant emissions, coal continues to dominate electric fuels markets. Though some fear new EPA standards could pressure marginal coal plants to close, it is unlikely this will happen. Coal markets are propped up by a marked decrease in contract prices, cleaner mining, productivity gains, troubled nuclear power and instability in gas and oil prices.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Build vs. Buy. Finding the "build" option as the cheapest alternative when two purchased power contracts expired, Florida PSC allows Tallahassee municipal electric utility to construct a 250-megawatt, combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power plant at an existing generation site. Docket No. 961512-EM, Order No. PSC-97-0659-FOF-EM, June 9, 1997 (Fla.P.S.C.).

Special Contract Discounts. New Jersey allows Elizabethtown Gas Co.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

My electric company, Potomac Electric Power Co., has announced a joint venture with RCN Corp. of Princeton, N.J., to offer local and long-distance telephone service to callers in Washington, D.C., and nearby areas, plus cable television and high-speed connections to the Internet. With stockholder money, PEPCO would compete head-on against Bell Atlantic, which won approval from the Federal Communications Commission on Aug. 14 for its $25-billion merger with NYNEX.

Reporting the story, The Washington Post quoted PEPCO President John M.

N.H. Ratepayers Lose in Bid to Support Electric Plan

Phillip S. Cross

U.S. District Court in New Hampshire has denied a move by customers and ratepayer groups to intervene in litigation on electric restructuring simply on the basis that they wanted lower rates.

The court said that a general desire to pay lower rates was not specific enough to intervene in the lawsuit, which was filed by several large electric utilities to challenge elements of the plan for competition approved in February by the state Public Utilities Commission. See, Re Restructuring New Hampshire's Electric Utility Industry, Order No. 22,514, 175 PUR4th 193 (N.H.P.U.C.).

People

Robert L. Digan II was hired by Semco Energy as its senior v.p. and CFO. Digan joins SEMCO from Supershuttle International.

United Cities Gas Co. has promoted Ann S. Baldwin from purchasing assistant manager to purchasing manager.

Scott B. Foster has left the International Energy Agency in Paris to join Cambridge Energy Research Associates. CERA also hired Gary Hunt, former COO at East Bay Municipal Utilities. He will serve as the company's North American electric power project director. Hunt will advise clients on responses to changes in the electric power business.

N.J. Extends Economic Development Programs

Phillip S. Cross

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has authorized Public Service Electric and Gas Co. to extend its existing economic development programs through July 1999.

The programs include construction and building credits for non-residential consumers who expand into newly leased or purchased vacant building space and increase their electric or gas energy use as a result. The program also includes an electric, off-peak employment service for non-residential customers that increase consumption of off-peak electricity as a result of increased employment levels.

Joules

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.

Colorado Moves on Gas Unbundling

Phillip S. Cross

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is expanding its investigation into the unbundling of natural gas local distribution services and rates.

The staff investigation follows a report on gas industry restructuring to the state Legislature by Hagler Bailly, a consulting firm, and a commission hearing on the report. According to the commission, this "next step" in the review process is designed to solicit further input from stakeholders and to refine the issues into an unbundling framework.

CalEnergy Halts Hostile Takeoveer Attempt

Lori A. Burkhart

CalEnergy Company Inc. subsidiary CE Electric Inc. in mid-July appeared poised to take over New York State Electric & Gas Corp. But NYSEG fought the hostile takeover and won.

Although NYSEG had asked the New York Public Service Commission and the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York to intervene, in the end, CalEnergy cited "lack of shareholder support" as its reason for terminating its bid.

A takeover attempt. CalEnergy Company Inc.

N.Y. Fills "Vacuum" Asserts Wheeling Authority

Phillip S. Cross

The New York Public Service Commission has asserted authority to mandate direct-access pilot programs to give supply choice to energy consumers, noting that state authority is crucial to filling a regulatory "vacuum," since the Federal Power Act withholds authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to mandate retail wheeling.

The case involved a pilot program developed by Dairylea Cooperative Inc.

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