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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1999

York, Maine, New Jersey and Massachusetts pay three times as much for their electricity as consumers in Idaho, according to the annual "NUS 1999 Electricity Price Survey" released Aug. 31 by National Utility Service. The survey found that electric prices vary significantly from state to state, and that prices in states with deregulated markets are not necessarily the lowest.

The highest electric price, the survey finds, is 9.53 cents per kilowatt-hour in Albany, N.Y., followed by Augusta, Maine, at 9.37 cents per kilowatt-hour. Boise, Idaho boasted the lowest price, at 3.03 cents per kilowatt-hour, and the second-lowest is Frankfort, Ky., at 3.50 cents per kilowatt-hour. "Electricity prices in states that have deregulation, such as California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, remain above the national average," said Richard Soultanian, NUS co-president, pointing out that stranded-cost recovery was partly responsible for the higher prices. Soultanian warned that consumers cannot rely on deregulation alone to provide them with low prices. "Customers must still be proactive," he said. Contact Soultanian at 800-888-2190.

Competitive Metering & Billing. Competition for electric metering and billing services can promote and advance the development of the competitive retail electricity market in Virginia, according to a state commission report filed with the General Assembly on Sept. 1. The report recommends that the commission be given the authority to decide on the timing and type of metering and billing competition. Virginia's Electric Utility Industry Restructuring Act, passed earlier this year, opens the state to electric retail choice on a limited basis as early as Jan. 1, 2002. Contact Ken Schrad, 804-371-9141.

Nuclear Power

State Regulation. At a Sept. 23 meeting in Peekskill, the public staff of the New York Public Service Commission was to review the status of the PSC's "Nuclear Issues Proceeding" on the future of the state's investor-owned nuclear plants in a competitive environment.

In Phase I of the case, the PSC will consider whether to impose market pricing for nuclear costs and energy. Phase II will examine various scenarios for plant ownership and operation, including possible divestiture or shutdown. Phase III studies potential real property taxes and impacts on the environment, reliability and health and safety. Copies of the interim report are available on the commission's website at www.dps.state.ny.us/nuclear.htm. Case 99065/98E0405 (N.Y.P.S.C.).

Y2K Compliance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's report, "Year 2000 Readiness in U.S. Nuclear Power Plants (NUREG-1706)," confirms that all 103 U.S. nuclear power plants have no Y2K-related problems that affect performance of safety systems needed to safely shut down the plants. The NRC concluded that (1) at all 103 plants there were no Y2K-related safety system concerns; (2) all licensees are following staff-approved industry guidance for achieving Y2K readiness; and (3) the few Y2K fixes related to non-safety items would be completed before year's end. See www.nrc.gov/NRC/NEWS/year2000.html.

Plant Relicensing. The NRC issued final rules with a generic finding on the environmental impacts of transporting spent fuel and nuclear waste, so that plant owners seeking renewal of their licenses will not have to repeat the analysis with each relicensing application. For its generic findings, the NRC studied environmental