The merger voltage (I) is rising on the electric grid, but it remains to be seen which will win out: current (E) policy or resistance (R) to it.
Kilowatts by Choice, Ready or Not
KCC finds that in the long term, the state would see "positive benefits" from retail competition. It recommends that the state "should begin in the shortest time possible to lay the groundwork for implementation of retail competition" (see, www.kcc.state.ks.us/pi/nrri.htm).
Maryland. Scores of power producers, municipalities, consumer groups and vendors spoke at ongoing commission hearings this year. Staff submitted a framework for customer choice in May that recommends unbundling rates for IOUs in April 1998, followed by a three-phase enrollment and service "prototype" program. Service would begin for 10 percent of customers in April 1999 and conclude with full choice in 2001. Whether the commission would accept or modify the staff framework wasn't known at press time. The PSC is acting independently from the Legislature, which appointed a 20-member task force in July. A report is scheduled to be submitted in December.
Utah. Four PSC task forces are voluntarily evaluating the impact restructuring would have on the state (the economic analysis and reliability task force reports are in). But some feel that there's been some "regulator bashing" in the Statehouse and that the "ball's been taken out of the PSC's court" according to a spokesperson. A legislative task force is working on an accelerated agenda. The Legislature froze utilities' interim rates in the spring, effective until March 1998. Utah is "almost a one-party state," says Rich Collins, with the PSC. He expects that rural groups and munis would "have enough clout to slow or stop" the process, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen, he adds.
Virginia. A proposal by the State Corporation Commission's staff on whether or not Virginians will benefit from industry restructuring was due to the General Assembly by Nov. 7. A special legislative committee is studying the issue. At public rate hearings for Virginia Power (Feb. 17) and American Electric Power-Virginia (May 19), the SCC will consider each company's regulation plan; the filings serve as each companies' plan for preparing itself for a more competitive industry. No date is yet set for an Allegheny Power-Virginia hearing. No pilot programs are under way or have been filed yet.
Wisconsin. In July, the Wisconsin PSC revised its 32-step plan for restructuring. The PSC says "electric industry restructuring [should] be subordinate to and compatible with assuring a reliable electric supply." The new three-year, seven-step plan would implement retail competition after February 2000, if the PSC finds it is a viable alternative. The state plans further study into competitive generation, development of an independent system operator, unbundled pricing, tax incentives, current standards and the construction of merchant plants.
Wyoming. A newly released economic impact study by Black & Veatch, requested by the commission, is online at psc.state.wy.us. Four scenarios were analyzed, all of which resulted in "electricity price and economic impacts generally reduced due to phased or partial implementation of retail access." Nonetheless, the study concluded that these reductions and impacts "do not appear to provide the rationale for or against a particular restructuring policy in the state." F
Lori M. Rodgers is an associate editor with Public Utilities Fortnightly.