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News Analysis

But the standards board must surmount differences with electric brethren before repeating its gas industry success.
Fortnightly Magazine - April 1 2001

retail gas and electric standards to be developed simultaneously. "So, if we were going to develop natural gas retail standards, it didn't make sense to do that without developing electricity retail at the same time—or, the best efficiency would be gained by developing them jointly … ," she says.

A Duplication of Effort?

Wait a second. On the gas side, GISB is studying the possibility of the formation of a new energy standards board and meanwhile, on the electric side, EEI, through UPB, has set into motion a business practices initiative that is already working on some of the very issues that the new board would be created to address. Isn't that a conflict?

No, says McQuaid. All initiatives can contribute and will eventually converge into one front. For one thing, UPB is working on retail, something that GISB has yet to address. The presumed idea is that whatever work is done before the new unified energy board comes into existence (if it ever does), the new board can use that work already completed and take it from there.

"They [EEI] have graciously stepped in and helped sponsor … such an activity [retail], but at this point, there's not an overlap, because GISB doesn't do that. We're not precluded under our charter from doing retail gas standards, but we are prohibited from doing electricity retail standards. So, in that perspective, I don't think you see an overlap now," says McQuaid.

But wouldn't a new organization be formed to do precisely what EEI is already working on? "I would think that the new organization would address gas and electric retail. There wouldn't be a point for it otherwise," she says.

The reason for McQuaid's tact, is that EEI's counter proposal perhaps suggested a concern over the electric industry's territory being infringed upon. Templeton, a principal at consultancy Comprehensive Energy Services, meanwhile, wants to spell it out clearly and for the record: "Let me say, this is not for gas people to run the electric business because their people will be involved, and they'll do it. I know to begin with, they didn't understand. They were afraid, 'Here comes a bunch of interlopers going to tell us how to handle our business.'"

If GISB's mandate allows it to take on retail gas, why hasn't it done so already? How the board became involved with the combined electric-gas board initiative—that is, at the request of the CUBR—suggests an answer to that question, and McQuaid's response falls into line with that answer. "We haven't really addressed retail gas mainly because we haven't received any requests to develop the standards for retail gas," she says. "If we were to receive requests from industry participants saying 'develop retail gas standards' … our organization would consider those requests … ."

Another reason for GISB's lack of attention to retail standards up until now is its aforementioned full plate. "We've been mired, so to speak, in wholesale issues. And it's not just wholesale issues, it's … interoperability standards, and those interoperability standards cut across everything," said McQuaid.

At the electricity