ON MARCH 26, JUST BEFORE IT OPENED THE STATE'S electricity market at midnight on the 31st, the California Public Utilities Commission announced new interim rules to protect consumers, plus this warning: "Any entity who is considering doing anything contrary to [state law] regarding electric restructuring, and [this] decision adopting such safeguards, should think twice."
Ostensibly, that advice followed from last year's passage of State S.B.
Lori A. Burkhart, and Phillip S. Cross
POWER PLANT SALE. Central Maine Power Co. has agreed to
sell its hydroelectric, fossil and biomass power plants totaling 1,185-MW of generating capacity to FPL Group, the holding company of Florida Power and Light. The sale price of $846 million exceeds book value and could permit up to a 10-percent rate cut for customers by the end of the year.
OHIO/TEXAS DEAL. Ohio-based American Electric Power
Co. and Texas-based Central and South West Corp. on Dec.
Nuclear Plant Fines. The Nuclear Regulatory Commis-
sion has proposed fines totaling $2.1 million against Northeast Nuclear Energy Co. for many violations at the company's Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Conn. The fine marks the largest civil penalty ever proposed by the NRC. Northeast Utilities said it will pay the fine, which it called "a necessary and important step toward bringing to closure a very disappointing and difficult chapter in the company's history." The utility said it will not pass the cost onto ratepayers.
Lori M. Rodgers
A state-by-state look at retail competition.
RHODE ISLAND'S CUSTOMER CHOICE PROGRAM FOR LARGE-industrial and government consumers is five months old. California consumers will see retail choice on Jan. 1. New York, Illinois, Idaho and Washington have pilot programs well under way. And a statewide pilot program was set to begin this month in Pennsylvania.
Yet retail choice may prove vulnerable in New Hampshire (em the one state that has shown the greatest commitment to retail choice.
Shirley S. Fujimoto, and Christine M. Gill
When the fanfare dies down, winners face the same challenge as with any new start-up but may enjoy more options than incumbent licensees.
The Federal Communications Commission's auctions of spectrum should concern two types of energy utilities: those who participate in the auctions and those who don't.
Initially, these auctions were viewed as a spectacular new regulatory tool (em able to raise billions of dollars for the public, without troubling the overburdened taxpayer. As of late, however, a dark side has emerged. Bidders have cried fraud.
Lori A. Burkhart
Central and South West Corp. has settled its pending litigation with El Paso Electric Co., resolving issues surrounding the 1993 termination of their proposed merger.
Central and South West will pay El Paso Electric $35 million, while both utilities have agreed to release all future claims against each other. In April, a bankruptcy judge ruled that Central and South West owed El Paso Electric a $25-million merger termination fee under their agreement, and said Central and South West also might owe an additional $18 million in interest.
Michael T. Maloney, Robert E. McCormick, & Cleve B. Tyler
Open-access tariffs hold the key to capturing the gains promised by electric restructuring.
In a restructured electric industry, unbundling the cost of the wires from power generation may well prove more important than dealing with stranded costs. In fact, stranded costs eventually will take care of themselves, whether by direct recovery, indirect recovery or no recovery. Without proper unbundling, however, a restructured industry could force competitors to pay inflated access fees to the distribution utility.
The matter has drawn a lot of attention.
Sound bites from state and federal regulators.
Overseas Investment. Michigan certifies plan by Consumers Electric and Gas Co. to bid on the outstanding equity of three electric distribution companies being privatized in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Case No. U-11331, April 14, 1997 (Mi.P.S.C.).
Appliance Repair Rates. New Jersey OKs rates for Public Service Electric and Gas Co.
Lori A. Burkhart
Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co. has released a report advising that a properly structured plan for securitization of stranded utility investment should address third-party credit risk.
Charles E. Bayless
A recent conversation:
"When was the demise of the regulatory bargain? What you say is true, but at some point you had to know the bargain was over."
(em A state utility commissioner
"Beats me, it doesn't seem to be over yet. The electric industry still has a duty to serve all customers, and it must charge below-market rate confiscatory for many of our services because of the regulatory bargain.