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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 2000

notify customers about any changes in pricing up to six months out.

"Direct mail signifies to the customer that the company has something important to say," the regulators said.

On another issue—concerning revenue shortfalls for default standard offer service caused by last summer's high power prices—the regulators said that utilities could recover costs from all distribution customers, and not just default customers. The regulators explained that default service acts "as insurance for all customers who enter the competitive market." .

Standard Offer Shortfalls. The Maine PUC, citing rising wholesale power prices, boosted standard offer rates for Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. by 32.5 percent, the exact amount requested by the utility in mid-September, after it estimated that without adjustment, standard offer revenues would fall $7.9 million short of costs. The adjustment comes on top of an earlier increase approved in July. .

Standard Offer Service. The Ohio PUC OK'd significantly different plans for standard offer service in two recent electric restructuring orders, for Dayton Power & Light Co. and for Monongahela Power Co. Each order grants a 5 percent discount off generation costs for residential standard offer service, but each also deals differently with the problem of customers "gaming" such service by switching back and forth between supplier.

  • Monongahela Power. Non-aggregated residential customers who take service from competitive suppliers would be able to return twice to default service before a minimum stay period would take effect. Case No. 00-02-EL-ETP, Oct. 5, 2000 (Ohio P.U.C.).
  • Dayton P&L. To address gaming, the agreement stipulates that during a "market development period" (MDP) running through 2003, any residential customer who takes generation service from DP&L at any point between the summer peak demand period of May 16 and Sept. 15 either must remain on standard offer service through April 15 of the following year, or choose a market-price-based tariff approved by the PUC and not lower than the generation cost embedded in the standard offer. Customers pay a $5 fee to switch, but have one free switch during the MDP until a 20 percent switching level has been reached. Case No. 99-1687, et al., Sept. 21, 2000 (Ohio P.U.C.).

Environmental Disclosures. The Emissions Disclosure Working Group at the Maryland PSC has submitted a set of six different labels to be used by electric utilities and suppliers offering standard offer and competitive electric supply services in the state's deregulated electricity market.

The labels would disclose the fuel mix of supplied energy, listing percentages for coal, natural gas, nuclear, fuel oil, other unspecified fossil fuels, and renewable energy (including geothermal, hydroelectric power, solar energy, wind, solid waste, wood, and biomass). The labels also would disclose emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide, in pounds per megawatt-hour. .

Slamming and Cramming. Michigan regulators invited all "interested persons" to submit proposals to protect electric customers from slamming (switching them to another supplier without consent) and cramming (billing them for unwanted services). .

Renewable Energy Portfolios. New Mexico regulators relaxed rules for its 5 percent minimum standard for renewable energy portfolios for standard offer service, waiving compliance if it would cause