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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - June 1 1998

Public Utilities Commission has amended its rules governing purchased power contracts between electric utilities and qualifying cogeneration facilities so that the concept of avoided costs will "effectively mean the market value of power." PUC policy now requires competitive bidding and recognizes that "existing utility resources may be avoided at a market price." Docket No. 97-794, March 10, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLANNING. The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved new streamlined rules for integrated resource planning by electric utilities that will replace the existing 15-year planning horizon, triennial IRP filings, annual updates and short-term action plans with a single annual filing. The annual reports will contain 10-year forecasts of load and generating capacity as well as existing and planned generation and transmission capacity needed to meet identified load requirements. Utilities must also report demand-side management options and power purchase and sale commitments for the forecast period. Docket No. e-100, sub 78a, March 26, 1998 (N.C.U.C.).

CAPITAL STRUCTURE. The Alabama Public Service Commission has updated its long-standing rate stabilization and equalization rate plan for Alabama Power Co. to accommodate a move to a higher ratio of equity (45 percent) in the utility's capital structure, to reflect additions to equity under RSE and a series of upgraded security ratings by Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Duff & Phelps, cited by the PSC as "among the reasons why the Company's retail rates have remained stable and well below the national average." Docket Nos. 18117; 18416, March 9, 1998 (Ala.P.S.C.).

METER READING PROBLEMS. Responding to customer complaints about high bills, the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control told Southern Connecticut Gas Co. to provide monthly reports on its remote meter installations and readings after it found the utility was slow in notifying a meter vendor of irregularities with automated meter reading devices, and had been forced to take actual readings and rebill customers to make up for shortfalls. Docket No. 97-05-02, Feb. 11, 1998 (Conn.D.P.U.).

GAS CORE AGGREGATION. The California Public Utilities Commission has simplified its rules for natural gas core aggregation programs, responding to suggestions from Enron Corp. that procedures for switching, requiring several forms and a waiting period of many months created a substantial disadvantage for competitors. r. 90-02-008, d. 98-02-108, Feb. 19, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

GAS IMBALANCES. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission authorized Peoples Natural Gas Co. to force customers to give 90 days' notice before switching between sales and transportation service and to pay for any pipeline balancing and scheduling penalties to encourage customers to take responsibility for their own energy use. The PUC added, however, that the utility should develop a balancing service of its own to provide transportation customers with a way to avoid incurring the penalties. Docket No. g-011/m-97-1048, Jan. 16, 1998 (Minn.P.U.C.).

GAS CURTAILMENTS. Rejecting claims that natural gas users need no more protection than propane or heating oil buyers, the Michigan Public Service Commission has OK'd rules for consumers Energy Co. that assign five levels of priority to gas customer classes to govern gas service curtailments. Noting that gas customers generally have no on-site storage or multiple access