A national electric competition bill introduced by Senator Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) Jan. 30 that would allow customers to choose their electric supplier by December 2003, invoked mixed reactions.
Bumpers, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, said the bill would establish a uniform federal system to avoid "certain chaos," which would result from legislating different guidelines for the industry.
In addition, the proposed legislation would do the following: authorize state commissions to establish stranded-cost recovery levels; repeal the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and the Public Utility Holding Company Act; allow for regional regulation of the transmission grid by independent system operators; and require any company selling retail electricity to ensure that 5 percent of the power is generated from renewable resources.
House Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.), who last year had introduced a comprehensive electric restructuring bill that would have given all customers choice by Dec. 15, 2000, says he is "encouraged" by the Bumpers bill. He says it will help add "substantial momentum" to competition.
The Chemical Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 190 U.S. chemical companies (the chemical industry is the nation's largest industrial consumer of electricity, using 6 percent of the power generated in the country each year), says the legislation "effectively addresses the crucial issue of market power."
While CMA officials support the bill, they also feel that 2003 is too long to wait, an opinion mirrored by John A. Anderson, executive director of Electricity Consumers Resources Council. CMA advocates choice occur no later than Jan. 1, 2000.
Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association calls the bill "questionable, [because it] imposes a federal mandate" without considering the "diverse circumstances between states and regions." English says it is incongruous that the bill calls for deregulation through imposition of onerous federal mandates.
The Electric Consumers Alliance questions the need for federal legislation. ECA Executive Director Bob Johnson says that 49 states already are looking at competition for its residents. Johnson believes the focus of the federal debate needs to include the impact deregulation would have on residential and small-business consumers, especially with regard to universal service, consumer protection and the right to due process at the state level.
The Electric Power Supply Association supports the bill because it calls for honoring existing obligations, especially independent power industry contracts. EPSA Chair Steven D. Burton, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Sithe Energies Inc., says that electric competition is a nonpartisan issues, and "leaders in both parties recognize the benefits of customer choice." (em LB
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