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Electric Meter Deregulation: Potholes on the Road to Plug-and-Play

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1998

and interoperability, in my opinion, is in the metering communications. I feel this is the area where PSWG had the most problems in reaching any sort of agreement. PSWG agrees that we need to have some sort of communications standards, but could not agree on how to get there."

Natural Gas: The Next Step?

What about the rest of the country? Must each state that adopts retail choice in electricity endure the same debate that has emerged in California? Or will the entire issue play out in California? And what about gas?

Mazy offers his personal opinion:

"Even now, we are bringing the lessons of electric restructuring to the [California PUC's] Natural Gas Strategy proceeding. The PUC has just ordered gas utilities to unbundle their costs and strongly signaled its interest in the near-term unbundling of billing systems. Once again, we are beginning a series of workshops to elucidate issues concerning the unbundling of 'revenue-cycle services' - meters, meter reading, meter data management, customer-specific information and billing and collections.

"This time, we are not hearing about 'least-unit costs' for monopoly systems, which tend to retard innovation, so much as about 'safety' issues.

"I believe that gas safety is consistent with an unbundled market structure. We will ask the commission to change established, business-as-usual practices to enable complete unbundling while maintaining existing levels of safety. As before, our goal is not to make gas services unbundling happen in any preconceived manner, but to ensure that it can happen, and equitably, if customers want it."

Bill Rush, the gas industry physicist from IGT who crossed over to attend the electric metering workshops, adds his unique slant: "I actually don't know that much about what's going on the gas side. I haven't gone to the gas meetings. The companies who have the vested interests will have the deep pockets to keep sending people. I'm with a nonprofit. I ran out of money.

"But my feeling was that the electric proceeding was the most important for the gas industry. The conclusions they came to in electricity I think will be the ones for gas also. That's why I chose to work so hard in the electric hearings in California. And as California goes, so is much of the rest of the country likely to follow."

Bruce W. Radford is editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly.

Setting Standards-Four Key States

PUC Action, Pending Issues

ARIZONA. Adopts rules Aug. 5, 1998 approving EDI format at server level, but no action taken on ANSI C12.19 at meter level (Decision 61071, Rule 14-2-1613-J4,5). Open architecture subgroup to report by July 1, 1999, six months after first phase-in of retail choice, set for Jan. 1, 1999. Issues first debated in report filed Nov. 1, 1997 by Metering Subcommittee of Unbundled Services Working Group ( www.cc.state.az.us/working/unbundle.htm).

CALIFORNIA. Working group files report with PUC July 29 on permanent standards for metering and related data. Recommends ANSI C12.19 as data format at meter level, but with grandfather exemption and cannot agree on communications protocol at meter level (see, 162.15.5.2/wk-group/ dai/pswg). PUC to review after