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Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1997

Joules

ENRON International has begun building a $150-million, 80-megawatt independent power project in Piti, Guam. Enron signed a 20-year energy conversion agreement to develop the baseload, slow-speed diesel plant by January 1999. In an unrelated deal, Enron Corp. selected Stone & Webster for engineering, design and procurement for two independent power producer plants in the United Kingdom. The 790-MW, gas-fired, combined-cycle plant in Lincolnshire is set for commercial operation in March 1999.

Duke Energy Power Services Inc.

Carrier Balks at Pricing Set for Local Service

Phillip S. Cross

Further opening the local telephone market to competition in the state, the Michigan Public Service Commission has established guidelines for pricing unbundled network elements and set a wholesale rate for bundled local service.

The local exchange carrier, Ameritech Michigan, complained that the combined price of all unbundled services could fall lower than than the bundled wholesale rate.

The commission adopted a total-service, long-run, incremental cost study to calculate the new rate offerings.

Two Reports Mark Slow Progress on Customer Choice

Lori A. Burkhart

Consumers appear unaware. Pilot programs seen under-subscribed.

TWO REPORTS RELEASED SIMULTANEOUSLY IN WASHINGTON, D.C., appear to confirm the worst fears of parties to the utility restructuring debate (em that consumers are unaware of deregulation and very few have taken home any real benefits. On Sept. 4, Yankee Energy System Inc. and International Communications Research Inc. jointly released survey results showing that two out of three Americans are still unaware of utility deregulation.

New Mexico Gas Choice Commitment

Phillip S. Cross

The New Mexico Public Utility Commission has authorized Public Service Company of New Mexico to launch a major new program to help small-volume end users take advantage of alternate gas supply sources.

The action follows an investigation by the commission of an offer by the utility to exit the gas merchant function.

Under the new program, small customers can purchase gas from a list of qualified marketers beginning with the first billing cycle for December 1997.

Portland General Eyes Franchise Fees

Lori A. Burkhart

Portland General Electric doesn't want to sell electricity anymore.

PGE, a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron, wants to focus on the transmission and distribution of electricity and has asked the Oregon Public Utilities Commission to allow all 670,000 of its customers to choose their electric provider.

It also has proposed a new way to calculate franchise fees in an unbundled environment.

In its customer choice proposal, PGE said restructuring had triggered the need for changes in the way franchise fees are calculated.

Off Peak

Competition draws Christians, conspiracy theorists.

SO, WHO WANTS TO COMPETE AGAINST THE LOCAL UTILITIES? In most of the country, potential competitors tend to fall into three categories: (1) traditional utilities from within or nearby the affected state that wants to expand into foreign service territories; (2) unregulated subsidiaries of traditional utilities; or (3) power marketers and/or aggregators. In California, however, it's more of a mixed bag.

Paine Webber Reassesses Lure of Stocks

Lori A. Burkhart

Electric utilities that may not appear attractive on a "standalone basis" could become attractive takeover targets because of their location, according to PaineWebber's Electric Utility Monthly Industry Update.

The company pointed to the recent failed attempt by CalEnergy to acquire New York State Electric and Gas. PaineWebber noted that, at the time of the attempted takeover, NYSEG was not a favored stock. In fact, NYSEG was not on PaineWebber's list of possible takeover targets.

PaineWebber said the strategic location of NYSEG appeared to be the key factor in the attempt.

NY PSC Staff Envisions Future of Gas

Lori A. Burkhart

The staff of the New York Public Service Commission has asked for public comment on its report, which found the most effective way to establish competition in natural gas supply is to separate the merchant and distribution functions.

The report said non-regulated entities would provide all future merchant functions. These entities will share the supplier of last resort obligations along with local distribution companies and will share in costs of social programs.

Perspective

Durairaj Asaithambi

We won't move to credit cards until our customers demand the option.

EVERY DAY, CUSTOMERS OF PUBLIC utilities ask the same question: "If I can buy my gasoline, grocery, medicines and all other necessities with plastic, then why can't I pay for my electricity, water, gas and telephone bills that way?"

Public utilities (em except long-distance telephone companies (em have yet to enter full-blown competition. When they do, utilities should decide whether to pursue the credit card option.

Michigan City Still Disputing Stranded Costs

Lori A. Burkhart

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has moved closer to deciding the stranded cost dispute between Consumers Energy and the city of Alma, Mich., which intends to construct its own municipal electric system.

On Sept. 10, the FERC set for hearing two stranded cost issues: (1) whether Consumers Energy has met the "reasonable expectation" standard justifying stranded cost recovery from Alma; and (2) if so, what amount the utility may recover. (See, Docket No. sc97-4-000.)

Consumers Energy wants $56.1 million in stranded cost payments from Alma.

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