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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2000

directed its staff to file a status report by Sept. 29 on methods to improve transmission reliability, and to complete its final report by Nov. 1.

Earlier, on May 1, the staff had filed a final report on proposed performance standards for electric distribution systems. Reply and counter-reply comments were due in that case in August.

Resource Management. The New Hampshire PUC OK'd a plan by Public Service Co. of New Hampshire to introduce several programs aimed at boosting electric reliability over the summer, including swaps of large blocks of power with other utilities to lower risk in the event of a forced outage.

Earlier, the FERC had OK'd a proposal by the New England Power Pool to pay customers to interrupt demand during summer capacity deficiencies. That program, in place from June 30 to Sept. 30, would allow distribution companies and load-serving entities to solicit retail customers and execute agreements for voluntary load curtailment to fill 200-MW blocks of interruptible load priced at $500, $750, and $1,000 per megawatt-hour interrupted.

Commissioner Curt Hébert, describing the NEPOOL plan, called it "one day late and one dollar short."

Internet Appliance Control. Working with the Carrier Corp., Connecticut Light & Power Co. was set at the end of June to launch a program allowing 50 selected residential households to control thermostats remotely over the Internet to manage air conditioning usage during peak demand periods.

Data Collection. The Iowa board opened a docket to obtain data on transmission and distribution system reliability from Iowa's three investor-owned utilities, requiring the utilities to file historical monthly indices for the last five years, including data for the reliability measurements SAIFI, SAIDI, CAIDI, CAIFI, and MAIFI. For a one-year period starting July 10, the utilities must file reports on the achieved level of each of the five reliability indices, and identify service interruptions and their reasons.

 

Courts

Open-Access Transmission. A federal appeals court affirmed essentially all aspects of FERC Order 888, which mandated open access to electric transmission. It said that the FERC could impose an open-access rule as a remedy for discrimination, as it had done earlier with natural gas (affirmed by the court in 1987 in the case), despite the Supreme Court's 1973 opinion that denied federal authority to mandate wheeling in an antitrust setting.

Second, in denying arguments by state regulators, the court affirmed FERC jurisdiction over the transmission component of unbundled retail electric sales. In fact, it suggested that if the FERC had wanted, it just as easily could have asserted jurisdiction over transmission even if still bundled with retail sales.

Reactive Power. Reversing the FERC, a federal appeals court ruled that the Southern Companies could recover costs associated with the "turbine assembly" (the motor that turned the "exciter" in an electric generating plant) in a separate charge for reactive power included in a wholesale power sales contract with the city of Tallahassee, even though the FERC had argued that the turbine only generated "real power," and not reactive power, since the exciter itself could operate independently from the turbine as a "synchronous condensor"