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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1999

Public Utility Commission. (See story, "New Mexico: A Fresh Look?" p. 20.) The PUC rule, hailed as the most liberal in the country, had allowed net metering for customer-owned renewable energy, distributed generation and alternative generation technologies, with a facility size limit of 1 megawatt. Case No. 2847, Jan. 12, 1999 (N.M.P.R.C.).

Metering and Billing. The Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control adopted a working group report that would mandate network- and server-level communications protocols for data transfers among electric distribution utilities and generation suppliers by January 2000, reflecting the electronic data interchange (EDI) guidelines developed by the Utility Industry Group. Utilities would provide historic customer usage on supplier request, but not interval data.

The order also sets metering and billing protocols, with cost-sharing allocations among utilities and suppliers for metering, billing and collections services. The DPUC found no need to promote network metering, denying a bid by CellNet for incentives.

The DPUC OK'd Connecticut Light & Power Co.'s "payment received" billing method, by which CL&P would offer the same billing services to suppliers that it uses for its own receivables. United Illuminating Co. will be allowed to submit its "bills rendered" method for DPUC approval, by which UI would remit generation payments to suppliers, less a discount for uncollectibles, costs and a reasonable rate of return, a method the DPUC described as the utility "purchasing suppliers' accounts receivable."

It also allowed distribution companies to allocate all standard billing and metering costs to distribution, but they must collect half from suppliers to recover costs from all customers. The DPUC also approved CL&P's six different metering service options to competitive electric suppliers, which range from a basic service to various hourly reporting methods. Docket No. 98-06-17, Jan. 13, 1999 (Conn.D.P.U.C.).

Divestiture Auctions. Connecticut also generally approved a plan for Connecticut Light & Power Co. to divest generating assets, but the DPUC insisted that its own consultant - not CL&P - should conduct the auction. CL&P was to have filed a revised divestiture plan by Jan. 13.

Also, the DPUC barred any personnel transfers between "buy and sell teams" within Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P, to prevent NU from bidding on CL&P assets through an unregulated affiliate. Docket No. 98-10-08, Jan. 8, 1999 (Conn.D.P.U.C.).

Energy Business Practices. The New York Public Service Commission issued rules setting out uniform business practices among energy utilities, service companies and marketers. The PSC believes the new rules might serve as a model for the region, and perhaps the nation, as deregulation becomes more widespread.

The rules set minimum standards for ESCO/marketer creditworthiness, customer information exchanged between the utility and supplier, billing procedures, customer switching, customer slamming protections and dispute resolution. Case 99002/98M1343, Jan. 13, 1999 (N.Y.P.S.C.).

Load Aggregation. Connecticut regulators issued a "Report to the General Assembly on Aggregation" that will require utility distribution companies to make load data and estimated load profiles available to customers, or to a third party at no cost if the customer provides the release. The report recommends no legislative changes "at this time" to facilitate aggregation. Docket No. 98-06-13, Dec. 23,