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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 2000

PSC noted that other electric utilities provided such materials monthly-not quarterly, as had NYSEG. .

Interruptible Gas Customers. To avoid a repeat of last winter, when some interruptible gas customers were ill-prepared for service cutoffs, the New York PSC told gas utilities to ensure that interruptible gas customers will stockpile at a minimum a seven-to-10-day supply of alternate fuel, through storage or otherwise, by Oct. 1.

Utilities must conduct random on-site checks of customers taking interruptible service and must charge a higher rate to customers who fail those spot checks.

"A repetition of last winter's situation is unacceptable," said PSC chairman Maureen O. Helmer. .

CO2 Removal. Utah OK'd a $13.5 million (1.4 percent) increase in natural gas rates for Questar Gas (return on equity set at 11 percent), and allowed the utility to recover two-thirds of costs claimed for removing carbon dioxide from coal seam gas transported by its affiliate, Questar Pipeline Co. .

Consumer Notifications. The Texas PUC proposed customer protection rules that include a billing label ("Electricity Facts") that the PUC likened to the "Nutrition Facts" label on food products, as well as a "Do Not Call" list, allowing customers to decline calls from telemarketers.

The label would include (1) cost of electricity, for 500, 1,000, and 1,500 kWh per month; (2) time-differentiated, seasonal, or contract pricing information affecting rates; (3) contract changes and early-termination penalties; (4) fuel mix; and (5) percentages of air emission compounds created from electric generation.

A hearing on the rules was set for Oct. 16. .

Electric Retail Choice. West Virginia proposed rules on (1) licensing of competitive electric service providers (ESPs); (2) codes of conduct for transactions among utilities, affiliates, and ESPs; (3) consumer protection; (4) a system benefits charge; and (5) rights for utility employees, including creation of a labor-management council.

Hearings were set for Oct. 26. A future rulemaking will address interconnection, distributed generation, reliability, and net metering. .

Offsystem Sales. Florida regulators replaced an older program-that had encouraged the state's four largest investor-owned electric utilities to sell power at wholesale offsystem-with a new plan for the utilities to share profits of offsystem sales with ratepayers through a credit against fuel costs. Ratepayers would get 100 percent of profits up to a certain company-specific benchmark (set to reflect historic levels of short-term offsystem sales), plus 80 percent of profits above the benchmark. .

Electric Restructuring Plans. The Ohio PUC OK'd a restructuring transition plan for Cincinnati Gas & Electric, setting a rate freeze, shopping credits, and other incentives aimed at helping CG&E meet the requirement imposed by state law for 20 percent of each customer class to switch to a competitive energy supplier.

The residential class sees a 5 percent cut in rates for generation service. Customers who switch to an ESP keep their shopping credit through Dec. 31, 2005. The switching fee is waived for first 20 percent of residential customers that choose an ESP during a five-year "market development period" (MDP). CG&E may terminate the MDP for any class, except residential, when 20 percent of class load switches