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Mailbag

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1997

The FERC Uncorked?

If you have quoted Commissioner Massey accurately ("Hoecker Takes FERC Helm, Makes Assignments," Inside Washington, Sept. 1, p. 53), there is the distinct possibility that he has drunk too much wine!

Milton J. Grossman

Attorney

Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: Our associate legal editor, Lori A. Burkhart, confirms the quote (em "I've visited his house, I've swam in his pool, I've drank his wine" (em but protects her sources.

A Meter Isn't a Telephone

Ralph Masiello and Sue Scott provide key insights into several important metering issues such as accuracy standards and technical certification in their recent interview ("Meter Markets: A New Value Proposition," Sept. 1, 1997, p. 38.)

However, Mr. Masiello's prediction that one day "consumers will be able to go to Circuit City and buy a meter. Just like with telephones,"gave me pause. While Mr. Masiello seemed to intend it only half-seriously, the analogy is one that I hear more and more today as we all note the parallels between telecommunications and electric utility restructuring.

In fact, the comparison of the electricity meter to the customer-owned telephone is not, strictly speaking, appropriate. As public utility commissions debate the issue of who owns and maintains the meter, I believe we should not lose sight of the meter's essential role and its difference from a telephone. While some new electric meters offer the potential for enhancing customer communications, its primary function in the future will remain that of a calibrated measuring device that determines how much money a customer owes an energy service provider. The telephone is an end-use appliance that has no accuracy or calibration requirements. Parameters used in billing for telephone service are measured not by the telephone but at the telephone company's central exchange office. No other business, including telecommunications, makes it possible for its customers to own the mechanism for billing for services.

The requirement for meters to perform multiple functions suggests the need for a modular meter design. In such a design, the base unit that performs measurement functions would be owned by the entity responsible for billing; plug-in modules for different customer services could be owned by the customer or an energy service provider. As long as the interface for the plug-in modules is an open standard (em allowing any company with the necessary specifications to build a compatible module (em all of the needs of the market will be met.

Dave Richardson

Advanced Metering Target Manager

Electric Power Research Institute

Palo Alto, Calif.

Also Concerned on Waste Disposal

I read with interest your article entitled, "Midwest Compact Kills Disposal Effort (em Centerior Asks 'Why?'" (Headlines, Sept. 1, p. 16).

Union Electric shares Centerior's concerns on this issue. This same concern formed the basis of my testimony at the June 26 Midwest Compact Meeting. I would question any decision that called for elimination of any potential disposal alternative in this highly politicized environment surrounding the low-level radioactive waste disposal issue. I believe all options should remain open for now.

While the Midwest Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission gave various reasons for its action, I

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