Utility executives face volatile energy markets, skyrocketing fuel prices, and changing federal energy policies. How are utilities benefiting from the turnaround in energy trading?
Single Party Billing. The New York PSC directed major gas and electric utilities in the state "to accommodate the wishes of retail access customers" by allowing for single-party billing either by competitive suppliers or the utilities, at the discretion of customers, effective no later than Oct. 2.
"A single bill is important to ensure the development of a robust competition in the utility industry," the PSC said.
Electric Restructuring. The New York PSC opened a case to consider the future of the competitive natural gas and electricity markets and the role of regulated utilities.
The PSC will study obstacles to rapid development of a retail market, especially for residential and small-use commercial customers, and whether utilities should sell products or services also available from private vendors. In addition, it will study funding of public benefit programs, such as for energy efficiency, research and development, and assistance to low-income customers.
The first progress report is due in mid-June from an administrative law judge.
Gas Restructuring. In late spring the Pennsylvania PUC finalized plans for retail choice in natural gas, which was set to begin in April.
- Issued proposed rules to standardize price and terms of service information that is provided to customers by local distribution companies and competitive suppliers.
- OK'd interim guidelines (patterned after electricity rules) on giving public notice of changes in operational status of gas suppliers.
- Set up a $1.2 million program for consumer education, funded by a competitively neutral and non-bypassable surcharge.
Gas Standby Rates. Affirming a prior ruling, the New York PSC rejected a call by the National Energy Marketers Association for a cut in rates (from $40.35 per dekatherm to $0.07 per dekatherm) charged by Consolidated Edison and Orange & Rockland to competitive gas suppliers for backup capacity service.
The PSC ruled that gas utilities could set the charge based on the difference between the value of capacity to make a bundled sale and the value of releasing pipeline capacity on a recallable basis.
Monopoly Abuse. The Michigan PSC dismissed a complaint by Total Petroleum Inc. that Consumers Energy unlawfully abused its monopoly position by refusing to provide electric service at rates and terms acceptable to Total, which reportedly was contemplating the formation of a municipal electric utility as an alternative.
The PSC concurred with an administrative law judge that Total was more responsible than Consumers for the breakdown of contract negotiations, citing the customer's refusal to yield on any of its demands for a short-term contract with a 60 percent rate discount, and the fact that Consumers made several concessions in the course of the negotiations.
Telephone Slamming. With the number of slamming complaints dropping from 510 in March 1999 to only 97 by December, the Michigan PSC canceled an initiative to develop a third-party administrator system to tighten the verification requirements for customer requests to change service providers.
Asset Securitizations. TXU, parent company of Texas Utilities Co., said it would appeal the Texas PUC's rejection of its proposal to securitize $1.65 billion in assets. Although a written order was not to be