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Fortnightly Magazine - December 1997

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

QUESTION: WHAT DO JOHN ANDERSON (ELCON),

Karl Stahlkopf (EPRI) and Matthew Holden (former commissioner at the FERC) have in common that may affect the course of electric restructuring?

Answer: Each belongs to Phil Sharp's task force on electric system reliability, and each embodies a different set of needs and aspirations, making it quite unlikely that we'll see agreement any time soon on what Congress or the Clinton Administration should do to reform the system.

Former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary announced the Task Force on Electric System Reliability last year.

People

NEW England Power, a subsidiary of New England Electric System, promoted Lawrence E. Bailey to president. Previously, Bailey served as vice president and director of generation operations.

Former Deputy Secretary of Energy, Charles B. Curtis, joined Hogan and Hartson as the director of its energy group. Susan Tomasky, former General Counsel of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, accepted a position with Hogan and Hartson's energy group.

Headlines

Lori A. Burkhart

PITTSBURGH CHALLENGES MERGER; ALLEGES COLLUSION

The city of Pittsburgh has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Allegheny Power Systems Inc., and Duquesne Light Co., to stop the merger proposed by the two companies.

In its Sept. 29 court filing, Pittsburgh claimed the two utilities acted jointly to restrain trade. The city said the companies did this by agreeing to maintain higher rates for electric retail service at two industrial sites targeted for redevelopment zones pending their merger.

Perspective

Sharon B. Heaton

EVERYONE'S GOT AN OPINION ABOUT MARKETING affiliates. In the natural gas industry, a fierce debate has emerged, as rules are proposed to govern the relationship between utility and affiliate.

Affiliate transactions are already among the most regulated activities in the gas industry. According to the 1995-96 Compilation of Utility Regulatory Policy produced by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, every state, except Nebraska, has jurisdiction over affiliate transactions involving a private- or investor-owned gas utility.

Inside Washington

Lori A. Burkhart

USE OF U.S. ECONOMY UPHELD FOR EQUITY CALCULATIONS

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in seven rate cases involving interstate natural gas pipelines, has upheld a new policy on the appropriate long-term growth rate to be used in computing their return on equity. Five of the pipelines contested FERC's new policy, as announced in Opinion 396-b.

The Commission defended the rate-setting method, but decided to allow the pipelines a chance to prove why the rules should not apply to them. The contesting pipelines are: Trailblazer Pipeline Co. (Docket No.

Courts & Commissions

Phillip S. Cross

WITH DIRECT ACCESS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN ON Jan. 1, 1998, California regulators are moving quickly to set up their long-considered policies on electric restructuring. The restructuring actions touch nearly every aspect of electric regulation in the state from financing decisions and rate design to the sale of generating assets and monitoring new capital additions.

In addition, restructuring has affected ongoing regulatory activities such as the development of performance-based rate making plans and pricing and rate designs for large incumbent utilities.

Off Peak

Jeff D. Makholm, and Michael J. Quinn

WHEN THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION approved a price-cap plan for Southern California Edison's distribution operations, it lamented the lack of a "distribution-only" study on productivity. So we prepared one.

Unlike electricity generation, electricity distribution will remain a regulated business. But the form of regulation likely will change to price caps, mirroring events in telecommunications regulation here and energy regulation abroad.

With price caps, rates are reviewed formally only at set intervals.

Renewable Subsidies in the Age of Deregulation

Steven Ferrey

BY WHAT AUTHORITY CAN STATES FAVOR RENEWABLE

energy in a restructured electricity market?

Renewable resource funding marks a major point of contention in utility deregulation. Environmental groups fear that without some form of compulsion or subsidy, or both, renewable resources will not survive in an energy economy based on least direct consumer cost. However, utilities do not want to be saddled alone with the chore of carrying all renewables to market.

Green Power Marketing

Steve Pickle, and Ryan Wiser

UNDER RETAIL COMPETITION, AT LEAST SOME electricity customers will make purchase decisions out of concern for the environment. A variety of utility green pricing programs already target environmentally concerned consumers. Recent experience in Massachusetts and New Hampshire confirms that utilities and power marketers are gearing up for full-fledged green power marketing to differentiate their products in a competitive environment.

Last Summer's "Pure" Capacity Prices

Judah L. Rose

WHOLESALE POWER PRICES DURING THE SUMMER OF 1997 REACHED LEVELS MUCH higher than in 1996 - higher than the variable fuel costs of even the costliest units (see Figures 1 and 2). This situation has confounded many observers. Many thought, in spite of forecasts to the contrary, that markets would continue to exhibit excess capacity for years to come. They thought need for new capacity was distant and that hourly markets would not see premiums in excess of fuel costs for marginal units - the so-called "pure" capacity premium - for years to come.

The evidence is in.

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