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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1999

1998 (Conn.D.P.U.C.).

Electric Restructuring. West Virginia opted to keep moving forward on electric restructuring when it scheduled evidentiary hearings on the matter, even after workshop participants had failed to reach a consensus on a restructuring roadmap. The schedule calls for hearings on Aug. 17 and 24, with briefs due Sept. 21. Case No. 98-0452-E-GI, Dec. 23, 1998 (W.Va.P.S.C.).

Metering and Billing. Warning against standards that might favor or lock in a particular technology, California regulators appeared to reject a proposal issued in July by the PUC's Permanent Standards Working Group to approve ANSI C12.19 as a standard data format at the meter equipment level, even though the PSWG had recommended a grandfather clause to protect nonconforming meter and software systems.

However, the PUC did accept certain portions of the PSWG report on standards for meter products, communications and meter reading, installation, maintenance, testing and calibration for direct access. It also called on its Energy Division and the Direct Access Tariff Review Committee to implement standards and protocols for electronic data interchange on a trial basis by Sept. 1, 1999, with the goal of setting up EDI as the sole standard for transfers of metered usage data by Feb. 1, 2000. Decision 98-12- 080, R. 94-04-031, I. 94-04-032, Dec. 17, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

Marketing Affiliates. Refusing to rule out a forced divestiture, California adopted rules to enforce standards of conduct governing relationships between energy utilities and their affiliates, including a penalty scheme, guidelines for setting fines, a "quick response" procedure to address ongoing violations likely to produce irreversible harm and a guideline requiring corroborating evidence before the PUC will hear complaints filed by anonymous whistle blowers.

While the PUC chose not to identify forced divestiture as an enforcement tool, it warned of the possibility: "[S]uch a remedy remains available ¼ whether or not it appears in these rules. In the absence of a specific factual situation, we cannot say [when] we would choose to impose such a severe remedy. For this reason, we will not expressly include this option in our rules." Decision 98-12-075, R. 98-04- 009, Dec. 17, 1998 (Cal.P.U.C.).

Electric Restructuring. Michigan regulators directed Detroit Edison Co. and Consumers Energy Co. to report on the current status of pending FERC tariff approvals that it needed to implement open access services in Michigan. The state plan was to start 30 days after FERC action. Regulators complained that approvals "have not been forthcoming." Case Nos. U-11290, et al., Dec. 28, 1998 (Mich.P.S.C.).

Promotional Practices. Pennsylvania regulators eliminated a number of restrictions on promotional practices by electric and gas utilities that might "stifle competition and innovation in marketing," despite requests by others to keep the rules until competitive markets mature.

The PUC countered that retail electric competition is "a reality in Pennsylvania," noting that electric/gas convergence demanded simultaneous relief in both gas and electricity. It added that recently imposed codes of conduct should avoid subsidies flowing between utilities and marketing affiliates. Docket No. L-00950108, Dec. 12, 1998 (Pa.P.U.C.).

Electric Restructuring. With an enthusiastic call to "move rapidly" toward competition, the Working Group on Vermont's Electricity