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Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1997

Georgia Proposes Gas Rags

Lori A. Burkhart

The Georgia Public Service Commission has established standards for issuing certificates to marketers to compete under the state's Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act.

Under the standards, candidates must show their creditworthiness. To compete, a marketer must prove that its capital base or other financial resources can withstand the business and financial risk and absorb losses that might occur in providing firm gas service to retail customers.

S.B. 215, which was signed into law in April, established a regulatory framework to deregulate the gas industry.

California Accord to Cure Market Power Problems

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved an agreement that will resolve a multifaceted case concerning pricing of services and operation of intrastate natural gas pipeline facilities by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

The agreement, known as the "Gas Accord," also initiated significant changes in the way PG&E operates its business by increasing competition and customer choice. To mitigate the effects of market power held by the company, the commission imposed a series of discounting restrictions on PG&E.

Branding Ensures Brown Isn't Green on Power Products

Lori A. Burkhart

California-based environmental and consumer groups have launched the nation's first voluntary certification and verification program for environmentally preferred electric products.

The Green-e Renewable Electricity Branding Program aims to help consumers choose environmentally friendly or "green" products. Californians soon will see promotional materials from marketers with the Green-e Program's certification on electric products that contain at least 50-percent renewable electric content.

Off Peak

NOx Joke

EPA Proposal Has IOUs Fuming

Electric utilities single-handedly to reduce smog.

MIDWEST AND OHIO VALLEY STATES ARE EXPECTED to get hit hardest by the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce smog.

Ohio, for example, is home to American Electric Power, one of the biggest contributors of NOx emissions at nearly a half million pounds per year (see chart).

The EPA proposed Oct. 10 that 22 states reduce nitrogen oxide (em a key element of smog (em citing electric utilities as the main source.

California Water Utilities Band, Save $5 Million

Lori A. Burkhart

Starting January 1998, New Energy Ventures will provide electricity to the first coalition of water agencies to have joined together to purchase and sell the service.

The Association of California Water Agencies Utility Service Agency has agreed to purchase electricity from New Energy for one year. It will allow members to save a minimum of $5 million annually on electric costs, depending on how many members sign up.

Fitch: Merchant Plants Prove Risky Investments

Lori A. Burkhart

According to Fitch Investors Service, the absence of long-term power purchase agreements, coupled with the increased price volatility associated with short-term energy sales, likely will result in noninvestment grade ratings for most merchant projects.

In its new report, Power Projects in a Less Regulated World, Fitch examines power plants and how to evaluate this riskier class of projects. Now, the company would rate a good merchant power project in the 'BB' category.

PG&E's Rate Hike Request Shocks Consumer Group

Lori A. Burkhart

Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s announcement that it wants to increase energy rates by almost $1.2 billion was met with outrage by consumer watchdog organization The Utility Reform Network.

Pacific Gas has notified the California Public Utilities Commission that it plans to file a 1999 general rate case to raise natural gas rates by $506 million to maintain gas pipeline safety and reliability. It also plans to increase electric base level rates by $703 million beginning Jan. 1, 1999 to improve service reliability.

Marketing & Competing

Nainish K. Gupta & Albert L. Danielsen

HOW DO CUSTOMERS RESPOND TO REAL-TIME PRICING?

Even when the customer is a commercial or industrial organization, the answer can prove illusive.

Real-life responses to RTP depend on the entirety of the incentive and monitoring systems, group dynamics and individual personalities. Managers within an organization respond to RTP signals based on information and incentives that only they can know and comprehend. Only people employed by the organization are privy to these intangibles, which remain highly idiosyncratic within any organization.

Information Technology for Utilities

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

IN THE DRIVE TO MATCH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS WITH THE

demands of "deregulatory" standards, utilities are investing billions in information technology (em some launching new business lines from their experience.

Worldwide, utilities are investing $20 billion; electric utilities pony up the most: $12 billion each year, according to Newton-Evans Research Co. An average U.S. electric utility will invest $43 million this year; a gas utility will invest $9 million.

FERC Briefs

CINERGY MERGER CONDITIONS. FERC allows two-year deferral of prior requirement (a condition of the 1993 Cinergy merger) for Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. and PSI Energy Co. to build a 345-kV transmission line by 2000 to link territories to guarantee central dispatch for generation. Cinergy says it can now duplicate the capacity with open access. FERC Chair James Hoecker concurs, citing "further evidence that the bulk power market is working." (Docket No. EC93- 6-004, Sept. 24, 1997)

Hydro Licensing.

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