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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1998

merger could offer new products; "sophisticated, interactive electric metering, real-time pricing, automatic utility control of customer machinery and appliances [or] computerized shopping for the most economical power supplier." But it also wondered: "Should our analysis extend¼ even if these products are principally concerned with end-use markets?" Docket No. rm98-4-000, 83 FERC ¶ 61,027, April 15, 1998.

Earlier, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and American Public Power Association had asked the FERC to impose a two-year moratorium on mergers between large electric utilities. See

INTERNATIONAL TRANSMISSION SERVICE. The FERC ordered El Paso Electric Co. to provide open access transmission service across the U.S.-Mexican border. El Paso will provide service over U.S. portions of lines connecting its Diablo and Ascarate substations in the U.S. with the Insurgentes and Riverena substations in Mexico.

The Department of Energy had delegated authority to the FERC to act in the case. The Commission had then amended both El Paso's presidential permit and its DOE export authorization. The order won't be issued, however, until the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense approve the permit amendment. Docket Nos. el96-74-001 et al., April 15, 1998.

ENERGY R&D. U.S. Energy Secretary Federico Peña and Ralph Goodale, minister of natural resources in Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Collaboration in Energy Research and Development. The agreement sets up guidelines for joint projects in energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation fuels, fossil energy, environmental protection and health. The agreement is a renewal and an expansion on a previous agreement signed in 1986.

The 10-year agreement covers all fields of energy research and development, including cleaner energy technologies and the impact of energy technologies on environmental protection and health. Several joint projects in heat pumps, combustion, bioenergy and transportation are expected to be finalized now that the memorandum has been signed.

State PUCs

NEED FOR POWER. The Michigan Public Service Commission ordered Detroit Edison to file plans for meeting additional capacity needs of 417 megawatts in 1998; 570 MW in 1999; 604 MW in 2000; and 760 MW in 2001. Detroit Edison had claimed it would not require any new capacity until 2004. But the PSC was concerned that electric utilities will not have adequate capacity to serve customer needs, and accepted its staff's "conservative" estimates for the additional capacity requirements.

Commissioner John Shea dissented, saying the majority's threat of economic consequences to the utility if it does not comply "smacks of the intrusive, Soviet-style program of centrally planned procurement of electricity from which my colleagues have previously distanced themselves."

In two companion orders, the PSC unanimously directed Consumers Energy Co., and Indiana Michigan Power Co. to file plans by April 24 assessing their needs for additional capacity this summer. Case No. u-10840, April 14 (Mich. P.S.C.).

NEW HAMPSHIRE RESTRUCTURING. On rehearing of its 1997 order on electric restructuring, the New Hampshire Public Service Commission reaffirmed its policy (regional average rate approach) on stranded costs, but relaxed rules in three key areas:

1. Metering. Opened for large-volume users once standards are developed.

2. Affiliates. Can operate within