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Fortnightly Magazine - May 15 1998

The Electric Competition Debate in...Texas

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

PAT WOOD III LIKENS HIS JOB TO CLEARING THE UNDER-brush "so the general can march through."

The "general" is the Texas Legislature; Wood is chairman of the state Public Utility Commission; the battle is electric utility restructuring.

To an outsider, it looks like Wood's commission is way out in front of the state's elected officials. Legislators are adjourned this year but the seven-member Senate Interim Committee on Electric Utility Restructuring is doing its best to sort through hearings on market power, transmission and distribution, reliability and other issues.

The Electric Competition Debate in...Ohio

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

WHAT IF YOUR STATE LEGISLATURE THREW A PARTY and you had to go? Best of all, this power party cost less than the one you went to (em and paid more to attend (em last year.

In simple terms, that's how some observe Ohio's latest proposal to convince the state's 11 million wary consumers to choose their electricity provider.

Two Republican state legislators have proposed the consumer-bent transitional system, called retail marketing areas or RMAs, as part of a broad electric restructuring program. The pair, Sen. Bruce E. Johnson and Rep. Priscilla D.

The Electric Competition Debate in...New York

Lori A. Burkhart

HAS DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN STATE HOUSE AND COMmission stalled electric industry restructuring efforts in New York?

Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly, insists the Legislature is busy working on comprehensive restructuring legislation for the state. He has expressed dismay at efforts of the New York Public Service Commission, which is restructuring the industry utility by utility.

Silver believes legislation offers the best chance to introduce competition quickly and efficiently, rather than through multiple, individual restructuring plans.

Frontlines

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

THE NEW LOGOS ARE SPLASHED ON BASEBALL CAPS AND COFFEE MUGS, GOLF

shirts and hard hats. There's the three-year, $42-million advertising budget and the slick newspaper, radio and TV ads. There's the NASCAR race, the Touchstone Energysm 300.

But in two, easy-to-understand sentences, what does the new Touchstone Energy do? For an answer, I turned to Michael L. "Mickey" Miller of Kentucky's Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. Miller chairs Touchstone's executive council.

People

ENERGY SECRETARY Federico Peña announced April 6 that he was stepping down, effective June 30. Peña plans to pursue other career options in private business and tend to family matters. Peña said he was sure his deputy, Elizabeth Anne Moler, former chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was "right up there" on President Clinton's list of potential replacements.

Doris F. Galvin was elected vice president and treasurer of CMS Energy Corp. Galvin has served as vice president and treasurer of Consumers Energy, CMS Energy's principal subsidiary, since 1993.

Mail

Steve Rosenstock

HANGING FUEL SOURCES. Editor Bruce Radford quoted me in his editorial "Water Heater War" in the March 15, 1998 issue. I'd like to clarify a few points.

Where I'm quoted as saying the Department of Energy should consider heat pump water heaters as separate appliances, my point was that the gas industry could market its own gas-fired heat pump water heaters (not gas-fired heat pumps (em a different technology), using a gas-fired heat pump and attaching a heat exchanger.

Mail

Timotny A. Bernadowski Sr.

ATER HEATER STANDARDS. Thank you for your recent "Frontlines" editorial regarding the debate on the options for basing new water heater efficiency standards ("Water Heater War," March 15, 1998, p. 6). Your article accurately captures the rhetoric which can result when standards setting actions meant to protect the public, such as the Department of Energy appliance standards, are used to promote political agendas and gain competitive advantage.

I wanted to provide some clarification regarding Virginia Power's comments on the water heater efficiency standard issue.

Mail

Sharon B. Heaton

UHCA REPEAL NOW. In her article, "Why PUHCA Repeal Is Still on Hold," published Feb. 15, 1998, Beverly Jones suggests the reason legislation to repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 hasn't passed Congress is because there hasn't yet been an "open dialogue" among all interests to deal with a wide range of electricity restructuring issues, including PUHCA.

Open dialogue is always important, and a review of the past two years shows that not only has such a dialogue taken place, but the case for immediate repeal of PUHCA, on a standalone basis, is stronger than ever.

Benchmarks

Christopher Seiple and Christopher Neil

LAST YEAR, RESOURCE DATA INTERNATIONAL PREDICTED THAT merchant plant activity was poised for explosive growth as deregulation created opportunities for a new breed of highly efficient generators. (See "Merchant Plant Activity Set to Explode," April 15, 1997, p. 14.) This prediction has proved true, with nearly 30,000 megawatts of publicly announced merchant plants under development.

More than 50 percent of this development is concentrated in New England, a particularly attractive market for merchant plant development.

News Digest

Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis

TELCO UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND. Reversing an appeals court, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Kansas Corporation Commission that had required wireless telecommunications carriers to contribute to the state's universal service fund. It also affirmed a KCC ruling setting the initial amount of the fund in a roundabout way based on equalizing inter- and intrastate long-distance rates.

The KCC order (issued Dec. 27, 1996) had slashed intrastate toll rates by $111 million over three years. It then cut access charges by an equal amount to offset the loss to toll carriers.

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