Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Carl J. Levesque
Studies and Reports
Natural Gas Retail Choice. Utility affiliates hold large market shares in natural gas customer choice programs, raising questions about the extent of true competition, according to a study released on Dec. 15 by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Participation varies by region, however, according to the report, "Energy Deregulation - Status of Natural Gas Customer Choice Programs."
In Pennsylvania, for example, three out of four programs showed very high shares for utility affiliates. The Equitable Gas Co.
Ohio's proposal for retail marketing areas would give all customers meaningful choice and all suppliers even footing.
When grocery shoppers go looking for a can of tuna fish, they must decide which brand to buy. No particular brand will jump off the shelf into their shopping carts. The same is true with automobiles or any other consumer good. First you choose a make and model. Electricity and other utilities, however, are a special case. In the transition from monopoly to competition, consumers face a different prospect.
Bruce W. Radford
Tales of bad faith, cold feet and price manipulation.
Lollipops"/fn1/ and "loopholes." "Islands" and "peninsulas." Utilities have invented a colorful new lexicon to explain what's happening at power pools and regional transmission groups. Yet the basic issue remains familiar: How to gain a competitive advantage.
Mary L. Schapiro, president and member of the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers Regulation Inc., or NASDR, was appointed to the Cinergy Corp. board of directors. Schapiro will fill the vacancy resulting from the retirement of Van P. Smith, chairman of Ontario Corp.
U.K. electricity regulator OFFER (Office of Electricity Regulation) appointed Brian Saunders, Ph.D., a member of the Electricity Pool, to head the Department of Trade and Industry/OFFER team to reform electricity trading.
Judah L. Rose
Contrary to findings, the conditions seen in June 1998 were not that unusual. And next year could promise prices even worse (em or, for the first time, real reliability problems.
The recent report by the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the causes of the power price spikes that occurred in the Midwest performs an important service (em it acknowledges that in competitive markets, the price of wholesale power can be quite high in periods of peak demand.
Nevertheless, the staff went wrong in reporting that the conditions behind the price spikes were unusual.
The board of Ameren Corp. elected Charles D. Naslund assistant vice president, power operations. Naslund will help manage operation of the power plants of Union Electric, now known as AmerenUE.
The Texas Public Utility Commission named Saralee Tiede the new director of the Office of Customer Protection. Tiede will replace Bill Magness, who was chosen a year ago to direct the PUC's customer education and response program.
Chairman James J. Hoecker named David P. Boergers to the post of secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
Robert W. Shaw JR. IS A BETTING MAN. Shaw's Aretê Corp. venture capital fund has invested $100 million in energy technology. This year the Center Harbor, N.H., fund set aside $30 million to invest in micro-generation technologies. Already the fund has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into more than a half-dozen companies trying to develop microturbines, fuel cells and other promising small-scale generation.
"This is a hot corner," Shaw says.
Shaw bucks naysayers like Ralph Selvig of VentureOne Corp., a San Francisco firm that tracks the venture capital industry.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
MIDWEST POWER PRICES. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman James Hoecker announced July 15 that as soon as the staff presents its findings, the FERC will deal with the complaints filed by Cinergy, Steel Dynamics Inc., and others asking for regulatory relief from the late June run-up in Midwest bulk power prices (as high as $7,500 per megawatt-hour), and for a price cap set at $100/MWh. Nevertheless, Hoecker advised that the FERC was in "no hurry," and that the remedies available to it were not entirely clear. Docket No. EL98-53 (Cinergy), filed June 29, 1998; Docket No.
Bruce W. Radford
THE PRICING TURMOIL THAT STRUCK MIDWEST POWER markets during the week of June 22, with allegations of price gouging and calls for a wholesale price cap imposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (see Docket EL98-53), made for good copy but has obscured what's really going on.
"In the pleadings to FERC, I saw no evidence of price gouging," says attorney Jeffrey Watkiss, who represents power marketers who have asked the Commission for wholesale market reform.
Bruce W. Radford
THE LAST FEW TIMES I'VE HIT THE ROAD FOR A INDUSTRY conference or speaking engagement, someone invariably has come up to tell me how my picture on this page seems to be getting younger. OK, I confess. Like many other columnists, I've probably carried on too long with the same old photo.