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Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 2000

News Analysis

Regina R. Johnson, and Bruce W. Radford

Do state regulators stand to learn more from their electric choice information programs than the customers they aim to reach?

What does it cost to educate an energy consumer about electric choice? Between $1.60 and $2.26, to judge by the public education campaigns in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In the first year of their information programs, these states spent a combined $103 million, funded through consumer rates. Though an impressive total budget for three public initiatives, that amount pales in comparison to the ad dollars spent by General Motors.

Off Peak

Regina R. Johnson

The supplier that bundles energy and telecom services into a single, low bill will win out, say residential customers. Will it be the electric company?

The increasingly busy lifestyle Americans lead could play into the hands of energy suppliers able to ease that burden, according to the findings of a national survey.

Consulting firm PHB Hagler Bailly found that 45 percent of residential customers would consider their energy company as a supplier of telephone service.

Germany: Taking the Lead in Electricity and Gas

Branko Terzic, Berthold Wurm and Yorck Dietrich

Once trailing, but now the frontrunner, Germany attempts to remake its fragmented energy markets - with no new federal bureaucracy.

Here's a timely recommendation for U.S. electric power executives: Maybe it's time to brush up on those long-forgotten high school German lessons. Suddenly, the German electric power market has become the fastest changing in the world. It all happened in less than the two years passed since Germany enacted a new energy law, which became fully effective on April 28, 1998.

Letters from the U.K.: Early Experiences in Mass Market Utility Retailing

John L. Domagalski

Britain's top energy suppliers compete on price but offer their own unique benefits and incentives.

In addition to the effects of regulatory reform and policy, certain consumer, environmental and technological shifts in the United Kingdom are effecting significant changes in the manner in which electric and gas companies competing for customers in the mass market. The U.K. residential market was opened to electric retail competition between September 1998 to May 1999. As of September 1999, about 10 percent of all U.K. residential customers had changed electricity suppliers.

A Continent United? Some Thoughts on Prospects for a Single Energy Market in Europe

Shannon Burchett

Deregulation in the E.U. is racing ahead, posing a challenge for U.S. firms. Yet the outcome is uncertain, as EdF, the giant of Europe, has yet to show its hand.

Eighty percent of the European power market will be open to retail competition, or liberalized, by 2003. The fundamental framework for shifting to a competitive market in Europe has some striking differences to the transition in the United States. Some primary contrasts with the U.S.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Having now passed a rule that takes very few chances, the FERC must decide what's in store for investors.

Whatever happened to the Sunshine Act - the law that tells government officials to hold their meetings in the open?

That's what all of us in the trade press wanted to know on Dec. 15, when Chairman James Hoecker kept us waiting all morning and well into the afternoon, while he and his cohorts at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission debated in secret on the ninth floor over the future of the electric utility industry.

People

Carmen Ana Cintron was named an administrative law judge at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Cintron previously served as Hearing Office chief administrative law judge in the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Social Security Administration in Chamblee, Ga.

Unicom Corp. appointed Elizabeth Anne "Betsy" Moler senior vice president for federal government affairs. Moler, an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C., is a former FERC chair. Upon completion of Unicom's merger with PECO Energy, she will head the combined company's Washington office.

Nevada Gov.

Benchmarks

Christopher D. Seiple

Are developers building more power generation capacity than U.S. markets can bear?

NEWGen, a new database from RDI Consulting, reveals that U.S. developers and utilities propose 180,000 megawatts of new capacity nationwide. Of this amount, 10,000 MW is in operation. An additional 11,000 MW has been postponed indefinitely or canceled. That leaves 159,000 MW of competing projects in a market that most likely can absorb only 15,000 to 17,000 MW of additions per year.

News Digest

State PUCs

T+D Investment Risk. The Maine PUC appeared to take a pro-consumer stance in setting principles it will use to set a revenue requirement for transmission and distribution (T&D) services provided by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. after the company becomes a wires-only utility on March 1. The PUC downplayed the risk of wires operations, adopting a return on equity of 11 percent and disallowing about $3.5 million of some $71 million in claimed T&D costs.

Perspective

J. Michel Marcoux

How the FERC risks a free-for-all in cases for gas facility authorization.

By final rule, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has adopted a new optional process for applicants seeking a pipeline certificate or gas import/export authority under the Natural Gas Act to construct, operate or abandon a jurisdictional facility.[Fn.1] It's known as the Pre-Filing Collaborative Process, or PFCP, but it means trouble.

In seeking to speed up administrative review, the FERC has only invited delay.