Utility executives face volatile energy markets, skyrocketing fuel prices, and changing federal energy policies. How are utilities benefiting from the turnaround in energy trading?
1, 1998; Docket No. 96-786 (intervention), May 14, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).
SLAMMING. The Michigan Public Service Commission directed Ameritech Michigan to stop requiring three-way conference calls to verify that customers indeed want to switch service, to guard against unauthorized slamming.
Telephone competitor MCI, had alleged that Ameritech was using the conference calls to dissuade customers from migrating by putting the conference call on hold for long periods or hanging up before verification was complete. Weighing that charge, the PSC ruled that an independent third party or an authorization letter should be enough to verify the customer's intent. It rejected claims that the ruling was "tantamount to blessing the practice of slamming."
In a separate opinion, however, Commissioner John C. Shea said that the case put the commission in a position of both a "regulatory censor," deciding what communications may be made between a consumer and a telephone company, and a "market referee," deciding which competitive activities may be used. Case No. U-11550, May 11, 1998 (Mich.P.S.C.).
PENNSYLVANIA RESTRUCTURING. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has approved electric restructuring plans for the state's major utilities, Duquesne Light Co., West Penn Power Co., Pennsylvania Power and Light Co., Pennsylvania Electric Co., and Metropolitan Edison Co., adopting elements similar to the highly contentious plan approved in late 1997 for PECO Energy.
The new plans phase-in direct access up until the deadline of Jan. 1, 2001, when all customers will have choice. The plans impose a series of rate caps and identify stranded costs to be recovered by each utility. The PUC set a shopping credit for each company, ranging from 3.12 cents per kilowatt-hour for West Penn to 4 cents/kWh for Duquesne customers. R-00974104 (Duquesne), May 21, 1998; R-00973981 (West Penn), May 29, 1998; Docket No. R-00973954 (PP&L), June 4, 1998; R-00974009 (Penelec), June 26, 1998; R-00974008 (Met-Ed), June 26, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).
PRIVATE FIRE PROTECTION. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has amended its water utility service rules to include a demand-based method of setting rates for private fire-protection services to achieve a degree of uniformity across the state. The method would allow water utilities to bill privately owned fire hydrants and other fire suppression equipment on the basis of flow demand requirements of each suppression system or the maximum flow available at the end of the customer's service drop, whichever is less. The rule includes formulas and equipment flow rates for allocating costs between public and private systems. Utilities would own and maintain service drops (installed at customer expense) and would bill directly any costs for customer-requested maintenance, repair, inspection or testing services. Docket No. 97-822, June 1, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).
SHARED TENANT SERVICES. The Oregon Public Utility Commission updated its rules for determining who pays the cost of using shared telecommunications services (services provided on a common basis within a single building or campus) when an end user seeks service directly from a local exchange carrier. Under the new rules, an end user must file a petition requesting an LEC connection and pay a reasonable fee to the shared-services provider for the alternative access. AR336, Order No.