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Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 2000

News Digest

State PUCs

Gas Retail Rate Design. In a move toward equalizing rates of return between customer classes, the Oregon PUC authorized Northwest Natural Gas Co. to increase base rates by nearly $246,000, at the same time boosting residential rates by 1.3 percent but lowering rates for large commercial and industrial users. It set return on equity at 10.25 percent, finding the rate "consistent with the downward trend of ROEs authorized by other regulatory commissions." Order No. 99-697, Nov. 12, 1999 (Ore.P.U.C.).

Electric Restructuring.

News Analysis

Richard Stavros

Utilities and marketers hash out the final details on a standardized contract for physical trades of electricity.

A standardized master contract for U.S. power trading could help wring order out of chaos in electric commodities markets by defining a common set of terms for physical transactions for both utilities and marketers, say experts.

But success likely will hinge on how well utilities and marketers can compromise on a narrow list of issues still to be settled, say those same experts.

Off Peak

A shakeout looms for retailers, and familiarity may be an edge.

Industry consolidation may whittle the number of electric and gas suppliers in the United Kingdom to just a handful by 2005, if the expectations of U.K. utilities are correct. Further, many predict that these mega-suppliers will include non-traditional competitors with trusted names - maybe even supermarkets or banks.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents in a survey of 95 U.K. utilities say they expect just five or seven major power suppliers to emerge during the next five years.

Northeast Energy Markets: Windfall or Washout?

John H. Herbert

Weighing the outlook for new plant investment in gas-fired power and related infrastructure.

The jury is still out on the type and size of additional energy infrastructure desirable in the Northeast United States, but enough data is in to make a few guarded observations.

The situation is fluid.

Merchant Mania: Regional Markets Draw Gen Plant Projects

Carl J. Levesque

Developers launch 70,000 MW of new capacity in Texas, PJM and New York state, but how much will get built?

It's so hot down here, it isn't funny," laughed Ken Donohoo, senior transmission systems engineer at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas independent system operator. But no, he wasn't talking about last summer's scorching temperatures.

Instead, Donohoo was referring to some 30,000-plus megawatts of generation capacity proposed to be built in ERCOT between 2001 and 2003.

Ancillary Services: A Call for Fair Prices

Eric Hirst, and Brendan Kirby

A case study shows how today's typical tariffs can force some industrial electric customers to subsidize others.

There ought to be a better way for electric utilities to set prices for ancillary services - so that customers pay rates that fairly reflect the needs they impose on the bulk power system. However, while federal officials seem to agree with this point, so far they have done little to turn the idea to action.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

A century gone by and we're still no closer to real choice in electricity.

The magazine being what it is, this column usually goes to press at least three weeks ahead of the cover date. Ordinarily I try to anticipate some upcoming event before the fact.

With this issue, however, the job gets tougher. It's more than a new year. In the popular view it's a new century. (But mathematicians know the Millennium begins in 2001.)

Did the electric grid crash on Jan. 1? Did the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announce its new rule on regional transmission organizations on Dec.

People

The Electric Power Supply Association elected B. Kent Burton, senior vice president of policy and international government relations for Ogden Energy Group, its chair for 2000. Kenneth E. Randolph, senior vice president and general counsel for Dynegy Inc., was named EPSA's first vice chair, and Bill Mack, president and chief executive officer of Coastal Power Co., was named second vice chair.

EPSA also named Donn Salvosa manager of government affairs and Shannon Gordon manager of finance and administration.