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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1999

17, 1998 (Or.P.U.C.).

Marketing Affiliates. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission adopted regulations on Dec. 18 barring marketing affiliates of electric or natural gas utilities from using either a name or logo that may appear "deceptively similar" to that of the regulated utility distribution company, unless the marketer operates as a provider of last resort. The rules allow affiliates to use a "tagline" to advertise their relationship with the utility, provided a disclaimer states that the two companies are not the same.

A study conducted in Nevada by Manoj Hastak of American University concluded that most Nevada electricity customers tended to choose a power marketing affiliate whose name most closely resembled that of their traditional electric utility, Nevada Power Co., with more than half the customers believing the affiliate to be the same organization.

Emission Reductions. Colorado was expected to hold hearings early in 1999 on a proposal by Public Service Co. of Colorado to recover its costs for voluntary emissions reductions at three power plants. The utility proposed to spend $205 million on air pollution reduction measures and charge retail customers over a 15-year period starting in 2003. It estimated that an average residential customer would pay about 79 cents a month for the program. The legislature in 1998 approved a bill allowing utilities to recover prudent costs for air quality improvements that exceed state and federal requirements.

Electric Retail Choice. Michigan regulators settled a decade-long rate dispute involving Detroit Edison, and has approved the utility's request for accelerated amortization of its Fermi 2 nuclear plant, removing obstacles that had stood in the way of a program for electric retail choice.

"The last impediment to open access is removed so that in the future customers will be able to choose their electric supplier," said PSC Chairman John Strand. Case Nos. U-8789 and U-11726, Dec. 28, 1998 (Mich.P.S.C.).

Renewable Resources. The Maine PUC issued rulings to carry out the state's electric restructuring legislation and its anticipated March 2000 start date for electric competition:

R&D Funding. A voluntary customer contribution program will fund research and development in renewable energy. Customers may contribute small amounts through a "check-off" on bills or customer response cards. Utilities will forward funds to the PUC, for rerouting to designated state universities. Utilities may recover program costs through applicable rates. Docket No. 98-620, Dec. 10, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

Net Billing. The PUC OK'd an annualized approach for net billing after competition begins in March 2000. Usage and generation are netted against one another on a roll-over basis for a 12-month period. Utilities may not charge a net billing customer directly for installing a second meter, but must recover such costs through "generally applicable rates." Docket No. 98-621, Dec. 10, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

Portfolio Standard. Renewable resource generation must total 30 percent of a competitive electricity provider's total retail sales. Providers must meet the 30 percent portfolio obligation over a 12-month period. Docket No. 98-619, Dec. 2, 1998 (Me.P.U.C.).

Electric Marketing Affiliates. Maine set rules that will limit retail energy sales by an electric utility marketing affiliate to 33 percent of the total