Bruce W. Radford
If Jane Austen were writing this column, she would begin something like this: "It is a truth university acknowledged, that a natural gas distributor in possession of a good franchise must be in want of an electric utility to merge with."
That's the rule of electric/gas convergence. But as an editor, my instinct when I uncover such a "rule" tell me to look for a reason why it ain't so. That's why I got such a kick from a recent conversation with Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Everybody's got an opinion on electric competition, and they're dying to be asked.
Last year the Colorado Public Utilities Commission opened Docket No. 96Q-313E, In the Matter of the Inquiry Into Electric Utility Industry Restructuring. Then, after weighing several options, and rather than preempt the policy discussion, the PUC mailed a 26-page questionnaire to 360 people identified as "having an interest" in electric utility issues, including investor-owned electric utilities, rural electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and others.
What it learned could fill a book ....
Glenn E. Montgomery and James P. Spiers
may be less than healthy, unless you're ready to replace them with technology.
As competition intensifies, increasing numbers of executives are realizing that customer service may have a more important role now than just placating regulators. After all, the broad spectrum of customer service is the principal way (em other than rates (em to differentiate a utility product and the utility itself.
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
Change was the operative word this year in New Orleans at the annual gathering the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Bob Anderson, Montana commissioner and outgoing president of NARUC, cited global competitiveness, technology and a political swing toward state's rights in his opening address. "State commissions have to respond to these powerful forces," he warned.
Phillip S. Cross
Investigations of changes in the structure of the electric utility industry are growing at the state level.
Question: What is your relationship with the state legislature? Do lawmakers in your state show interest in utility regulation? Should PUCs work more closely with state legislatures?Response by Boyce Griffith, Chairman, West Virginia Public Service Commission:
The West Virginia PSC's relationship with the legislature is good. The West Virginia legislature has been active in utility regulation. I believe West Virginia utilities already work closely with the legislature and will continue to do so.
Question: Will your commission still be around in the year 2000? If so, what will it look like? Are you restructuring your commission with the same fervor you devote to electricity, gas, and telecommunications?Response by Nancy McCaffree, Chair, Montana Public Service Commission:
As a regulator I have had the opportunity to listen to economists, energy planners, and other professional soothsayers. I have come to the conclusion that the only certainty pertaining to future forecasts is that they will be wrong 100 percent of the time.
Phillip S. Cross
The Colorado legislature has enacted a new law designed to increase competition in the state's local telecommunications market (H.B. 95-1335). The statute directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to remove all barriers to entry into the local telecommunications market "as soon as is practicable." State regulators are encouraged to use "interim marketplace mechanisms" where competition is not immediately possible, with the ultimate goal of replacing the existing regulatory framework with a fully competitive state telecommunications market.
Richard J. Grossi, chairman and CEO of United Illuminating Co., has been elected chairman of the North American Reliability Council. Grossi will serve a two-year term.
Thomas L. Fisher, president and CEO of Northern Illinois Gas Co. has been elected chairman of the Gas Research Institute's board of directors. Fisher will serve a one-year term, along with newly elected vice chairman, John F. Riordan, president and CEO of MidCon Corp.
Chairman Thomas G.