Perhaps the only political prediction bound to come true this year is that the words ôelectric restructuringö will reverberate in nearly every stateÆs legislative chamber.
So says Matthew Brown, director of the energy project at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But other factors support BrownÆs prediction. Public Utilities FortnightlyÆs informal survey of most states turned up similar results. Legislators know that the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Congress plan to introduce a federal bill this year. If stateside players donÆt jump in now, they may be pushed in later, the thinking goes.
There are at least eight states to bet on for new restructuring lawsùwith the usual political caveat that anything that can change will. Five states are in the Northeast; three are in the Central U.S.
Of course, other states have a long, quirky chance of deregulating. Pennsylvania, after all, took many by surprise when it enacted comprehensive electric restructuring legislation last Dec. 3 (becoming the fourth state to do so).
But take Nevada. If state Sen. Randolph J. Townsend (R) gets his way, he will restructure the Public Service Commission along with the utility industry. ôTheyÆll both be different when we get done,ö predicts Townsend.
The eight states chosen by Fortnightly were selected for the relative maturity of their commission efforts, special legislative committees and the reports issued by them. The reason being: States that have come this far are likely to be 1997 hot spots.
Besides the usual issues of stranded costs, wholesale-versus-retail competition, and divestiture, what subjects kept repeating in the states surveyed?
Taxes. Consumer concerns. Rural cooperatives.
Co-ops could prove to be the largest roadblocks to restructuring in rural states or be the final support needed to push deregulation into law.
Some believe, for example, that only with the blessing of the 13 co-op Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association would Pennsylvania have passed its legislation.
Taxes have been called ôthe sleeper issueö in some states, but itÆs waking up the lawmakers. Taxes are key for more than half the states surveyed. In summary, legislators are considering eliminating gross-receipts, property or other taxes to lower energy costs and keep utilities competitive. But revenues must be recaptured somehow. There are no quick solutions.
Brown says legislators will introduce more pro-consumer billsùboth in the timing of ôchoiceö rollouts and in the law itselfùbecause they realize, perhaps from bad examples set by other states, that restructuring must benefit all.
Texas likely will be awarded the ôhot spot of the year,ö because its combination of utility, big-business, consumer and political interests should inflame a fight worthy of the recent telecommunications bout.
All three of the largest utilities in Texas walked out of an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting where a model restructuring bill was drafted, says Ross Bell of ALEC.
Says Bell of the upcoming Texas showdown: ôItÆs going to be a battle.ö
Then again, no one said restructuring would be easy.
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr. is associate editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consumers To Pay Partial IPP and Utility Layoff Costs?
Wholesale or retail?
That could be debated in the Connecticut Legislature this year, once it reviews the Electric Industry Restructuring Task Force report.
The Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control has guided the task force and its six subcommittees through the arduous process.
For the record, the PUC has said the New England Power Pool should dispatch generation and that wholesale should precede retail competition. The agency also suggested that utilities be able to recoup stranded costs.
The task force report was expected by the LegislatureÆs Energy and Technology Committee Jan. 1.
According to an early draft, it looks like the stateÆs elected officials will receive vague legislative tips and some firm conclusions on a handful of restructuring issues.
Among the conclusions, is a call for non-bypassable charges to pay for the above-market portion of independent power producer, or IPP, contracts and for dislocated utility workers. The report also recommends creating a low-cost capital source, secured by a state pledge of electric customer revenues, to reduce IPP contract costs.
(There are 30 pacts for about 500Êmegawatts of IPP capacity in Connecticut under contract with Connecticut Light & Power Co. and The United Illuminating Co. The contracts range from 2.2Êcents per kilowatt-hour to 18.4Êcents per kWh and extend as long as 26Êyears.)
The Legislature will examine two models: the ôConnecticut Choice Plan,ö and the ôWholesale Plus Model.ö The ôChoiceö plan includes retail competition, allowing a plate of services and providers for customers. Under ôPlus,ö the retail side remains a monopoly; wholesale deals open up the market.
Based on comments from legislators and Sen. John W. Fonfara (D), co-chair of the task force, a retail program could be based on a date or event. This means that if prices were not reduced under the current structure, a retail pilot would kick in. The market would evolve from there based on preset markers.
The consensus seems to lean toward a wholesale model. Fonfara also leans toward wholesale. Utilities donÆt necessarily buy his position. ôIf they get their stranded investment taken care of, theyÆre gone,ö he says. ôTheyÆre ready to jump into retail.ö
His position, he claims, isnÆt pro-utility, but pro-economy. He wants to maintain low rates, not simply chase competition. Some in the debate took their eye off prize, he says.
ôBeing chairman of this committee, IÆm constantly trying to get people to open their eyes and see that thereÆs much more to this issue than whether or not you have retail competition,ö he adds. Fonfara also heads the Energy and Technology Committee.
United Illuminating and Northeast Utilities promote a wholesale plan, but neither have plans for retail choice at this time. Fonfara says he supports NU, but not completely. ôI want to see other things in there. The overall objective should be to lower rates, [and] be competitive with the region and the areas of the country that are competing for the businesses.ö
The task forceÆs other recommendations include:
• Phasing out or eliminating utility taxes. Including gas utilities, gross receipts generate about $229 annually. If gross-receipts taxes arenÆt eliminated, an option is to reduce the commercial tax rate from 5Êpercent to 4Êpercent. The report suggests no solution to make up the revenue.
• Improving utility efficiency and reducing costs through alternative rate regulation, providing performance targets and cost caps ùamong other measures.
• Redefining policy on energy conservation, environment and low-income programs. Obligations would continue under the retail market. Programs would be funded through non-bypassable systems charge.
End-user, business and environmental groups have called for retail competition by July 1, 1998, and include divestiture, trying to reverse the stateÆs go-slow approach. But NUÆs influence with the legislature, and its special contracts with large industrial customers, will weigh against these groups. NU has said it would consider a pilot open-access plan after 2000ùonce stranded costs are recovered.
The state of nuclear affairs in Connecticut could be another dampener to the debate; MillstoneÆs three units are down and Connecticut Yankee will shut down this year.
Then again, politics and persuasion could prevail.
Three years ago, Fonfara tried to start a restructuring task force but couldnÆt convince senate leaders to consider authorizing legislation. At the time, the chairmen of UI and NU told the official: ôWell, we donÆt know where this industryÆs going. We think itÆs a little premature to suggest that competition is a given.ö UI now is saying, letÆs go, letÆs go, Fonfara observes. ôIÆm saying æwait a minute.Æ
ôIÆm meeting with the chairman tomorrow. IÆm going to tell him heÆs ahead of me.ö
Despite Neutral Dereg Report, Final Legislation Predicted
ôItÆs our goal to pass legislation to deregulate the industry in Illinois. This year, this session.ö
ThatÆs a quote from state Sen. William F. Mahar (R), made after 18 months of hearings on electric industry regulatory reformùhearings he co-chaired. The deliberations resulted in little consensus, a neutral report and legislative proposals from three groups.
Those weighing in were the Citizens Utility Board, low-cost utility Central Illinois Light Co., and the Illinois Coalition for Responsible Electricity Choice. The ICRECÆs high-cost producers include Commonwealth Edison, and organizations like the ManufacturersÆ Association and the Retail Merchants Association.
Mahar, who introduced the legislation forming the Joint Committee on Electric Utility Regulatory Reform, says none of the restructuring proposals will become law, but he thinks the proposals will lead to compromise.
Com Ed, historically the utility that moves slowest on restructuring issues, attended the Joint Committee hearings. ôThey know that weÆre going to move on this and they know they canÆt drag their feet,ö says Mahar. ôTheyÆve changed their philosophy 180Êdegrees.ö
The legislature meets through May. ôYouÆre on board or not,ö the senator says.
The positions fall along predictable lines.
CUB calls for immediate benefits for all consumers; the breakup of monopolies to insure the cheapest power; no bailouts for bad utility investments; and guaranteed safe, reliable and environmentally sound electric.
CILCO calls for unbundled rates; a cap on electric base rates and fuel-adjustment charges for five years; ôlost-margin chargesö to ensure financial viability; a universal service fund for low-income customers; and an electric revenue-use tax to make sure the Illinois tax structure doesnÆt hurt utilities during competition.
It was in CILCOÆs territory that Illinois became the first state in which end users could shop for electricity, although shopping was limitedùand controversialùin this pilot.
The ICREC calls for pilot programs, then a phase-in of direct access, with the largest customers served first. Access charges would be assessed to customers choosing other-than-utility providers, as would transition charges in the first five years. Charges would provide 100-percent recovery of transition costs. The ICREC also calls for regulatory streamlining so utilities can prepare for competition, perhaps unbundling or selling assets. Other provisions: A universal service fund, and profit-sharing if a utilityÆs rate-of-return exceeds a specified level.
Looking at the three groupsÆ spread of opinion, it is no wonder the Joint Committee was struck dumb after 18 months.
Mahar says it is unlikely utilities will see full recovery of stranded costs and is more likely that consumers will share in the benefits of deregulation. Illinois legislators understand companies must succeed to employ residents, pay taxes and benefit shareholders. ôBut we canÆt guarantee that success,ö Mahar says.
Independent system operators and power pools are unlikely to be addressed in legislation. ôWeÆre not going to focus on all the grand-scale things that you may see coming out of California,ö Mahar says. ôWe donÆt use them as an icon in Illinois.ö
The Legislature looks prone to seeing that the free market is just thatùfree. The transition will happen with ôas little strangleö from the government as possible. If utilities want to unbundle, it appears it will be up to them.
Mahar says it is difficult to predict how tax issues will be addressed. (Generating plants could have less value in a restructured industry.) Illinois wants its utilities to be able to compete with other states.
Throughout the debate, Mahar says, the state body will work in a climate where 95 percent of the public, Legislature and media know nothing about the issue.
Rep. Vince Persico (R), Joint Committee co-chair, expects to reintroduce a restructuring bill this session. After that, there is no predicting who else may get into the act. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, for instance, has requested a copy of a model bill put out by the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Following In CaliforniaÆs Footsteps?
Massachusetts became the fourth state last year to launch a retail-wheeling pilot, and its fight for full restructuring promises to be as historic, with eight investor-owned and 40 municipal utilities vying to be heard.
As in other states, various agencies were penning restructuring reports. By the end of last year, two detailed plans had been released. The state attorney generalÆs strategy was consistent with a Department of Public Utilities draft issued earlier.
In the attorney generalÆs plan, full retail wheeling for all customers would begin by Jan. 1, 1998. Stranded costs would be recovered over 12 years, with a 2.8-cent-per-kilowatt-hour access charge tacked on in the first three years. Residential customers are guaranteed a 10-percent rate reduction.
ôConsumers Firstö was endorsed by New England Electric System, whose Massachusetts Electric Co. would recover stranded costs through the access charge. NEES is perhaps better structured to handle divestiture than the stateÆs other utilities because of its separate power company, which eventually would have to be sold. The same scenario would play out at each utility.
The DPU draft rule also called for an independent system operator and a separate power exchange, replacing the New England Power Pool.
The DPUÆs final restructuring order in December was expected to include proposed legislation. Still another panel, the Special Committee for Utility Restructuring, co-chaired by Sen. John D. OÆBrien (D) of the Energy Committee, delayed its own December report until February or March.
OÆBrien calls restructuring ôthe most confusing issue in the world,ö but he believes the legislature should vote on the subject this year.
It is clear his uppermost concern is the workers who may not survive the post-monopoly market test. ôWe have to make an agreement on stranded investment that protectsùprimarily from a legislative standpointùnot the rich guys who built these plants and are waiting on their returns, but basically the human stranded investment,ö he says.
On the day he was interviewed, OÆBrien met with organized labor leaders, whose position also is clear: Just donÆt do it.
The restructuring landscape changed somewhat since New England Electric System agreed to divest its generating assets. That is one of the prime issues the attorney general was negotiating with other utilities, seeking to get them to join in with the settlement.
Although the NEES deal guarantees customersÆ savings, it is likely NEES will recoup potential losses later. But the utility must recognize, says OÆBrien, ôthat legislators who go home to their districts have to tell everybody that thereÆs a benefit for everyone.ö
He says the legislature recently passed several pro-business billsùfor manufacturers and the mutual fund industryùso the pendulum is likely to swing back.
That in mind, will stranded costs be shared?
Utilities argue that divestiture rids them of some stranded costs, so recovery should be 100 percent. OÆBrien asks if there is no stranded-cost recovery, who funds labor losses and pension fund investments?
ôFor that alone, stranded costs have to be paid,ö OÆBrien says. ôBut 100 percent? ThatÆs going to be interesting.ö
Tax loss related to devalued plants will be part of the stranded-cost package. Securitization, in which stranded-cost recovery guarantees are used as loan collaterals, was a hot topic in the committee. But constitutional issues may bar Massachusetts from using this stop-gap measure.
Public purpose, environmental and demand-side management issues, which were first addressed in this state, will be debated in legislative chambers. ItÆs likely that the low-income subsidy will be kept on as a wires charge.
Democrats To Carry Dereg Bill With Broad Policy Consensus
Democrats take control of the Maine legislature this year, but politics are unlikely to influence the electric restructuring debate destined for each chamberÆs floor.
A Public Utilities Commission attorney, a legislative counselor and a ranking Democratic state senator on the energy committee say there will be less partisanship, still more policy agreement and some polemic on key issues.
Restructuring legislation is targeted by party leaders, and the governor, as a major undertaking of the session. Legislators expect to be lobbied by many parties, including MaineÆs largest utilities: Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co.
The Democratic influence could be seen with more attention paid to consumers and the environment.
The Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy planned to review PUC recommendations at workshops and other venues after the Jan. 7 start of the legislative session.
ôMy expectation is that we wouldnÆt complete our work until sometime in May,ö says Sen. John J. Cleveland, the ranking Democratic committee member.
That leaves just a month before the end of the session. But Cleveland is confident: ôI expect there will be legislation implemented in æ97. Introduced and passed.ö
According to PUC and legislative sources, broad policy issues have found consensus, mostly because the commission tackled the larger questions in its draft plan issued July 19, 1996. Stranded costs, for example, usually contentious, are not as contentiousùor so say those involved.
In the commissionÆs draft, thereÆs an opportunity, not a guarantee, for stranded-cost recovery, a chance similar to what would occur under traditional regulation. Most sides, in their comments, donÆt object to that solution, says the commission attorney.
The plan allows utilities a ôreasonable opportunityö to recover stranded generation investments before March 1995. Stranded-investment assessments would be made by 2000 and collected by 2006 when full unbundling occurs.
Related to stranded costs, Central Maine Power proposed legislation that would include a securitization scheme, similar to CaliforniaÆs and PennsylvaniaÆs, which would guarantee stranded-cost recovery so that utilities would have ôlegislative collateralö to obtain loans. It is likely to be part of the legislatureÆs restructuring debate.
The Draft Plan for Electric Industry Restructuring (Docket 95-462) would introduce customer choice and retail competition by January 2000. Customers could aggregate. Utilities would have to transfer rights to market output of their contracts with independent power producers that are qualifying facilities, or ôQFsö. Legal obligations under such contracts wouldnÆt be affected. (This issue has generated utility opposition.)
All end users would have access to competitive suppliers, but transmission and distribution companies would be required to have a ôstandard offerö available to end users who donÆt wish to participate.
The PUC also endorsed a New England-wide independent system operator and the evolution of the New England Power Pool into a voluntary power exchange.
Where problems in drafting legislation might arise, according to sources:
• Timing. The draft proposes 2000 as the rollout year. Some legislators are pushing for an earlier date.
• Divestiture. The three major utilities may be split on this issue, as Central Maine is the only utility that owns a fair amount of generation. Also, divestiture of generating assets seems to be an issue when it comes to the ability of transmission and distribution, ôT&D,ö utility affiliates to be in the retail marketing business.
• QFs. Who pays for these contracts? Do they remain with the T&D utility or are they transferred to an unregulated generating company?
• Environmental safeguards. Because of clean air issues with coal plants in the mid-West sending airborne pollutants east, Maine could consider a moratorium on buying power from these plants.
Cleveland adds that he suspects there would be wires charges for conservation and environmental measures, and for providing power to low-income customers.
Energy battles in Maine usually pit utility lobbyists and paper companies against consumer groups. But this time around, big paper and consumers are working closely because of similar interests. The two groups met throughout the commissionÆs draft process.
The commission attorney notes that politicians, meanwhile, need to stick to brushing broad strokes. ôThere could be a fight on any aspect of this if the Legislature decides it wants to write in the details,ö he says.
StateÆs Cost Advantage Leaves Legislators Wary of Change
Two committee chairs in the state Legislature have predicted there will be no 1997 electric restructuring laws in Minnesota, but several new bills were expected, and politicians could act despite the forecasts.
Lobbies or legislators intent on getting bills passed could prompt action.
Sen. Dan Stevens (R), for instance, was considering introducing a model proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to Ross Bell of ALEC. The senator, on the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, helped the national group draft the bill at a December meeting.
The state Department of Public Service also submitted a proposal late last year to the governorÆs office. A bill could follow, at the administrationÆs prerogative.
Sources say the governorÆs legislation would include a five-year phase-in of competition, starting with industrial users. An exit fee would be used to pay a percentage of stranded costs.
Betsy Engelking, principal analyst at the Public Utilities Commission, says that from what Sen. Steven G. Novak (D) indicates, a bill will come from his panel only if stakeholders reach agreement. Novak chairs the Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee.
In the House, Rep. Loren G. Jennings (D), chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, is equally shored up against change. ôI donÆt think we need to go very fast in Minnesota,ö he says. ôWe have very reliable and low-cost energy here in the upper mid-West.ö
Other bill authors include Northern States Power Co., Minnesota Power & Light Co., and environmentalists.
NSP falls on the side of the Minnesota Energy Consumers, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the PUC, which are all pushing competition, although the PUC and NSP donÆt see eye-to-eye on stranded costs. Interestingly, stakeholders havenÆt debated stranded costs much, since generation is viewed to be competitive.
On the other side of the deregulation fight is the Restructuring Alliances, which include cooperatives, municipal utilities, environmentalists, utility labor and senior citizens, all advocating ôgo slow.ö
ôWholesale first,ö they say. The PUC published a wholesale report Oct. 18, recommending that wholesale competition barriers be removed.
But, on the retail side, during hearings that ended Dec. 12, the PUC learned that rural and small communities were concerned about higher rates. Local chambers of commerce are split with the state chamber. Co-ops, too, are mildly divided. The United Power Association is for retail competitionùat its management level if not at the board level.
Before retail competition comes, Minnesota, like other states, will need to resolve the tax ramifications of restructuring. The state has a 4-percent machinery tax, the highest personal property tax of any industry there. The tax brings in close to $200 million annually. The Department of Public Service has been helping the Department of Revenue study the problem. A report was to be filed with the Legislature Jan. 15.
Last year, a potential cogenerator received a tax exemption from the legislature based on unit efficiency. The utilities took issue and Legislature promised to hear their claims.
Several proposals have been made to solve the overall tax problem, including a 6-percent energy tax for generators, including municipals and co-ops.
Jennings says he proposes to remove machinery tax and replace it with a retail meter tax. So if deregulation comes, power pumped in from out of state will be taxed similar to local energy.
Property taxes paid by power stations to local municipalities will be another issue. Jennings says that with deregulation, those plants need to be competitive with out-of-state generators, which can be done through a diminished tax.
ôThose local units of government who have relied heavily on the taxesùthose power stations will shut downö if thereÆs no change, he says. ôAnd theyÆll have no taxes. So is half the pie that youÆve enjoyed for a long time better than no pie?ö
MinnesotaÆs legislative session started Jan. 7. It runs through mid-May.
Taxes, Then Energy Master Plan Face Lame Duck Legislature
This year is the ôSuper Bowlö of state politics in New Jersey. Every seatùthat of its governor, assemblymen, senatorsùis up for grabs. This doesnÆt bode well for burning political debate on electric restructuring.
ôIn an election year, stranded costs could be a tough issue,ö says a legislative observer.
But deregulation has been rumbling around the Board of Public Utilities for years, even if, as Assemblyman Richard H. Bagger (R) says, ôThere has been in the New Jersey legislature no discussion of industry restructuring at all.ö
A BPU draft report to be released for comment before the start of this yearÆs legislative session is guaranteed to kick off some action. The BPU expects to make final changes to its Energy Master Plan by March.
The plan will be used as a platform for legislative recommendations. The recommendations would be the first concrete suggestions since a few half-hearted restructuring bills died in committee last year. (One, a pro-consumer bill introduced by Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D), would have required the BPU to provide equal access to market rates for consumers and fair competition for electricity generators.)
The Master Plan brought together 30 business, environmental, utility, consumer and other groups. When finishedùit was due in October 1996ùit will address asset divestiture, stranded costs, independent system operators and retail wheeling, among other topics.
According to various sources, one element involves retail versus wholesale competition. Some percentage of stranded investment will be funded through a transmission charge that everyone will pay, regardless of who generates the electricity. New JerseyÆs treasurer has talked about using state-bonding to fund the charge. It would be a transitional cost.
But the slipperiest banana peel New Jersey faces during this legislative calendar is energy tax reform.
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), state Treasurer Brian W. Clymer and BPU President Herbert H. Tate were working with leaders in the Assembly and Senate to overhaul the tax system.
The three administrative offices have proposed repealing New JerseyÆs 13-percent utility (gross receipts) tax, replacing it with a 6-percent sales tax on all retail energy sales. Currently, in New Jersey, only natural gas is sold retail through nonutilities. The proposal also would slap the 9-percent corporate business tax on utility profits.
The two new taxes would together make up half of the more than $900 million raised by gross-receipts tax. Some 70Êpercent of that figure is used for municipal aid. The proposal would phase in over 7Êyears; utilities have protested that is too long.
There may be a ôgrandfatheringö of existing generators, and independent power producers might not be taxed under the changes.
The governor wants the measures passed in the first quarter so tax payments arrive by July 1, which would be in time for the stateÆs fiscal year.
Bagger, who sponsored the flex-rate and alternative rate-making bill that became law in 1995, says restructuring legislation wonÆt come without energy tax reform. During 1997, he says heÆll be meeting with legislators to sketch a proposal for industry restructuring.
ôIÆd be surprised if it were to pass during 1997, but we just canÆt let time go by here,ö Bagger says. ôWeÆve got to start the debate so that maybe, realistically, we pass the energy tax reform in æ97 and pass a major industry restructuring bill during 1998ùin early 1998.ö
The Buckeye Two-Step: Taxes First
Electric restructuring in Ohio promises to go nowhere unless legislators first discover a way to fill the hole created if utilities were taxed at the same rate as other businesses.
Some have projected a gap in public school financing of $150Êmillion. That could devastate schools where power plants operate.
ôItÆs just a huge number,ö says Rep. Priscilla D. Mead (R), 1996 vice chair of the HouseÆs Public Utilities Committee and its expected 1997 chair. ôIÆve heard numbers bigger than that.ö
Utilities donÆt want to leave schools hurting. And since property tax is geographic, there is disparity in funding. In northern Ohio, by the nuclear plants, there are modern school facilities, which is not the case elsewhere in the state.
At the end of last year, the state was awaiting an Ohio Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of state school financing.
ôTherefore the Legislature has been loathe to touch the issue until there is some response from the court,ö Mead says.
She expects the first six months of the 1997 session to be spent on school financing, fundamental to deregulation. Debaters also will examine stranded investments and costs.
Once a tax solution emerges, legislators will move on to restructuring. Already, parties are choosing sides.
The speaker of the House has two yearsÆ tenure and thereÆs an incoming senate president. They were to meet with the governor early in the year to mold a legislative strategy to deal with restructuring. They could form a select committee, run a bill through both chambers, or call for a number of bills.
Says Mead: ôPutting it in music terms, the governor dances to big band music. The speaker of the House prefers the minuet. The president of the Senate dances to rock and roll. WeÆve got to get them dancing in one tempo.ö
Mead will choreograph the process. She takes no position and promises to deliver ôthe best legislation in the countryö that serves consumers and corporations.
A colleague who will take a position is Rep. Ron Amstutz (R), who introduced H.B. 653 last year to give customers choice in buying electricity. The bill was to be reintroduced this year with a new bill number. It could be substantially rewritten, says Dick Kimmins, a Public Utilities Commission spokesman.
The bill, said to have bipartisan support, calls for direct access for all customers by Jan. 1, 1998 and sharing of stranded costs. It also calls for recovery of transition costs incurred by electric distribution companies, through distribution surcharge rates.
The bill has the backing of end-user groups and American Municipal Power-Ohio Inc.
Utilities, meanwhile, were split on the bill. American Electric Power Co. Inc. and Cinergy Corp. support retail wheeling. The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants is on the same side
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