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News Analysis

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1998

customers not eligible for competitive services during the transition period, as well as a controversial mandatory solar portfolio standard, which Kunasek has also questioned:

"The [portfolio] requirement at full build out will require more solar than is currently available in all of the Western U.S."

Arkansas (em A Retreat on Metering. On Oct. 1 the Public Service Commission issued the final version of its Report on Restructuring the Arkansas Electric Utility Industry, %n4%n referring the issue to the Joint Interim committee on Insurance and Commerce, which is scheduled to report to the full House and Senate by Jan. 1999. The PSC report, which makes several recommendations on a wide range of topics, notes many issues that still must be resolved before competition can begin. It suggests a target date no later than Jan. 1, 2002. To achieve that goal, it calls on the legislature to take action during the 1999 session.

The PSC also asks for authority to decide on recovery of stranded costs and, if needed, to initiate a securitization program. Meanwhile, Entergy Arkansas says that state lawmakers should require the PSC to allow utilities full stranded cost recovery in any new restructuring law. Entergy warned that if utilities received only partial recovery, the state could expect legal delays, which would threaten the 2002 target date.

With respect to metering and billing, the Oct. 1 report retreats a bit from the draft version issued in Aug.. After reviewing comments, the PSC decided to delay competition for metering and billing at least until the market retail supply choice opens up, or even later, as the PSC may deem appropriate.

Georgia (em Will Go Slow. A "go slow" approach appears to be the word in Georgia, according to public service commissioner Bobby Baker, who notes that the state already enjoys low rates. Thus, the PSC is continuing to "evaluate" electric industry restructuring, as was called for in a report issued by the PSC on Jan. 28, 1998, %n5%n after it held a series of public hearings during the summer of 1997.

In December, the PSC is expected to act on a Georgia Power rate case, %n6%n in which the issue of stranded costs figures prominently. After that, the commission will likely move ahead with a plan. A recommendation to the General Assembly is expected toward the end of 1999 in anticipation of legislation in 2000.

Maryland (em Less Ambitious. Delaying its original April 1999 startup date, the Public Service Commission has now targeted July 2000 to begin competition, as provided for in a rehearing order issued on September 10. %n7%n Under the new plan, one-third of customers would participate in competition by July 2000, two-thirds by July 2001, and all customers by July 2002. The delay came after a Rehearing Application was filed by the Maryland Office of Peoples Counsel, which claimed that the schedule under the original December 1997 order %n8%n was too ambitious.

Noting that the 1997 order already defers competitive metering and billing two years, the September order declines an OPC request for further delay on that issue because OPC