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Fortnightly Magazine - July 2005

RTOs: Facts, Not Fiction

The benefits and future challenges of regional transmission organizations.

Karl V. Pfirrmann

Ten years after the initial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that set in motion the establishment of RTOs, it is hard to dispute that the mature organized markets with independent management of the grid have achieved tangible benefits for all customers. It is important to remind ourselves of the accomplishments and challenges ahead.

Upstate Uproar

Retail Choice: New York utilities cry “bait and switch,” but it’s not that simple.

Bruce W. Radford

If you take electric service from Orange & Rockland Utilities, the Catskills affiliate of Manhattan’s Con Ed, you can switch to a competitive retail supplier and score a 7 percent discount. But the discount lasts for two months. After that, if you haven’t signed a contract or taken some other action to lock in your discount, your ESCO can boost the commodity rate back to the old level—or even higher.

PUHCA Debate - Again

The SEC denies approval of the AEP/CSW merger. What will that mean for industry consolidation?

Dan Scotto

What's wrong the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA)? The 1935 act clearly did not contemplate a competitive marketplace for electricity. Legislation should be updated to reflect the prevailing energy economic climate.

Power-Plant Cooling: How Many Fish Per kWh?

EPA flounders on the Clean Water rule, while producers tackle the real enemy—shortage.

Courtney Barry and Bruce W. Radford

The U.S. EPA says that a typical sport fisherman working the Great Lakes would pay $4.58 for the privilege of catching a single walleye/pike, but would gladly fork over $7.99 to land a trout, or as much as $11.19 for a salmon. Sound fishy? Yet the EPA would rely heavily on these data, and other figures quite similar, to justify its proposed “Phase III” rule to regulate cooling water intake structures at small power plants and other similarly sized facilities, to preserve aquatic and marine life in the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, bays, and estuaries.

Transcos Reborn

Recent attrition raises the question: Consolidation or death spiral?

Michael T. Burr

Despite some setbacks, the transco business might be ready to turn the corner toward a new phase of growth. Will the remaining barriers roll away and allow the industry to grow beyond three companies?

Capacity Planning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Market-Power Tests: A review of FERC’s market-based rate (MBR) screens, from theory to application.

John R. Morris, Ph.D.

FERC’s market-power screens have been tested and found wanting in some areas. The author examines the screens’ strengths and weaknesses, then proposes future solutions.

Breaking the Gridlock

A proposal to remove the bottlenecks on grid investment.

Rana Mukerji

The lack of transmission investment transcends the usual culprits, pointing to a serious flaw in market structure.

Pipelines: Are Regulators in for the Long Haul?

An economic perspective on long-term contracting for gas pipeline service.

Ken Costello

Natural-gas pipelines are among the biggest supporters of long-term contracting for services, as they try to make life easier for themselves. But the time has come to re-examine the pros and cons of such contracts.

LDCs: That Giant Sucking Sound

The consequences of short-sighted rate making.

F. Jay Cummings

Gas utilities and state commissions must work together to help preserve rates of return, encourage conservation, and lower customers’ bills.

Utilities on Steroids

What's behind today's oddball mergers?

Richard Stavros, Executive Editor

Look at the gargantuan, gerrymandered service territories you would get with the latest pending merger deals: Exelon-PSEG, Duke-Cinergy, and Warren Buffet's bid to combine PacifiCorp with his MidAmerican Energy. Now ask yourself if they make any sense.

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