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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1998

electric utilities in the eastern half of the United States. (For a copy, see

State PUCs

GAS MARKETING AFFILIATES. The Georgia Public Service Commission ruled that Atlanta Gas Light Co. is barred from operating an unregulated affiliate to market gas under a similar name when natural gas competition begins Nov. 1.

The PSC believes that while competition is in its infancy, that the affiliate, Atlanta Gas Light Services, would gain an unfair advantage, perhaps confusing customers with a name similar to the 140-year old utility.

Once competition begins, AGL no longer will sell natural gas, merely deliver it to homes. Unregulated marketers will be responsible for the commodity sale. But throughout the legislative debate on the structure of the new competition law, AGL had claimed that its affiliated gas marketer would sell under the name "The Energy Spring." In April, AGL had notified the PSC that it had changed the affiliate's name to "Atlanta Gas Light Services."

T&D COMPETITION. The California Public Utilities Commission rejected a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to sell a part of its distribution and transmission system to the Modesto Irrigation District because the agreement called for both parties to restrict wires competition with each other for 25 years, to avoid duplicating facilities. The PUC explained that some new wires investment might be economic, even if duplicating existing plant: "We do not know whether competition in distribution markets is imminent¼ we nevertheless decline to approve any agreement which would prohibit it absent a demonstration that such a provision is the only way to prevent specified harm." A.97-07-030, D. 98-06-020, June 4, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

GAS SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT. To "smooth out" development costs and help Bangor Gas Co. construct a new natural gas local distribution system to serve the city of Bangor and nearby areas, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has OK'd a unique 10-year rate plan, featuring an earnings sharing provision and downward pricing flexibility, with a price cap keyed to forecasted prices for heating oil, with inflation adjustments.

Earlier, the PUC had rejected proposals to conduct a special "comparative proceeding" to select the best-suited candidate to serve the city with gas, explaining that such an investigation could "jeopardize the existing proposal and overwhelm administrative resources." Docket No. 97-795, June 2, 1998, June 26,1998, June 30, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.)

ELECTRIC METERING. The California Public Utilities Commission has required the state's electric utility distribution companies to participate in the training and certification of new entrants in the meter services market. It added that UDCs need not serve as a guarantor of the performance of any new entrant engaged in meter installation. R.94-04-031, I.94-04-032, Decision 98-06-081, June 18, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

GOODWILL VALUATION. The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved plans by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. to auction all but one of its generating assets, plus wholesale and retail marketing functions, its corporate name and some transmission assets. Prospective buyers must bid separately on use of the company name to allow the PUC to value goodwill and balance risks and benefits for ratepayers. Docket No. 98-114, June 17, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).