Trevor R. Roycroft, Ph.D.
TWO YEARS HAVE ELAPSED SINCE CONGRESS PASSED THE Telecommunications Act of 1996 to "provide a pro-competitive, de-regulatory national policy framework designed to accelerate rapidly private sector deployment of advanced telecommunications and information technologies and services to all Americans." %n1%n
Today, however, telephone deregulation has reached an impasse. Few customers enjoy competitive alternatives for local exchange service. Concentration in long-distance markets appears to be increasing.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
NITROGEN-OXIDE EMISSION LIMITS. Denying an appeal by electric utilities and industry groups against rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emission limits for nitrogen oxides at certain electric utility boilers, a federal appeals court has ruled that EPA properly interpreted the Clean Air Act. The act allows EPA to set NOx limits for certain electric utility boilers if it could show that more effective technology for low-NOx burners was available, the court said.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
ELECTRIC RETAIL PRICES. The Energy Information Administration has released a new report finding that the average retail price of electricity has declined for the third year in a row and remained stable for the first nine months of 1997. According to Electric Sales and Revenue 1996, average residential electric prices declined slightly in 1996, the first drop for that consumer class since the EIA began collecting data in 1984.
Phillip S. Cross
ON THE LAST DAY OF 1997, A U.S. DISTRICT COURT IN Texas struck down sections of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prevent former Bell System operating companies (BOCs) from entering certain lines of business, including interstate (and interLATA) long-distance. Some see the case as a clear victory for the BOCs. Others say it disrupts the delicate compromise forged by Congress among many diverse interests. In truth, the court's decision prompts a single question: Can Congress single out the BOCs for special treatment?
Steve Isser and Steven A. Mitnick
FOR ALL THE ATTENTION FOCUSED ON NEW LAWS AND regulations designed to create competition in electric power markets, too few people seem to grasp how a market can work. That will change, however, now that Pennsylvania is the first large state to embrace market pricing.
Pennsylvania's lawmakers and three of its five utility commissioners have developed a market to deliver the benefits of competition to consumers.
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for their coupons.
These utilities (see sidebar, "Going Once, Going Twice¼ Sold!") can expect their credit ratings to remain firm or even jump (em although that's debated by analysts. Such improved ratings may surprise market observers led to believe that loss of utility collateral would hurt investment grades.
Ralph D. Masiello
YEAR 2000. MILLENNIUM. DEREGULATION. Each word strikes fear into the heart of meter manufacturers and utilities alike. Like the turning of the century, deregulation is coming for the electric utility industry, and sooner than we think. How will it affect the metering industry?
The first real indication can be found in California. There, by order of the state public utilities commission, the customer's energy supplier (the energy service provider or the utility distribution company) will, for the time being, own the meter.
CINERGY MERGER CONDITIONS. FERC allows two-year deferral of prior requirement (a condition of the 1993 Cinergy merger) for Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. and PSI Energy Co. to build a 345-kV transmission line by 2000 to link territories to guarantee central dispatch for generation. Cinergy says it can now duplicate the capacity with open access. FERC Chair James Hoecker concurs, citing "further evidence that the bulk power market is working." (Docket No. EC93- 6-004, Sept. 24, 1997)
AT Washington Water Power, Bobby Schmidt was appointed director of the company, and Paul A. Redmond announced his retirement as chair and CEO. Redmond started with the company in 1965. Previously, Schmidt worked as an independent trader in Chicago.
MDU Resources Group Inc. has promoted Martin A. White from senior vice president, corporate development to president and CEO. White, who has been with the company since 1991, will replace retiring president H.J. Mellen Jr.
Robert L. Goocher was promoted to president of AGL Resources Service Co. from executive vice president and COO.
An Editorial Response:
Some critics wants PMAs out of the electric business. But that could leave market power to a few, large monopolies.
Department of Energy Secretary Federico Peña observed in an address at the recent annual meeting of the Edison Electric Institute: "The [electric utility] industry is incredibly diverse, with investor-owned utilities, municipalities, cooperatives, the federal power system, independent power producers, marketers and others.