Blair G. Sweezey, Ashley H. Houston and Kevin L. Porter
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES, A GROWING NUMBER of consumers are able to choose who supplies their electric power and, perhaps more importantly, where that power comes from. Evidence is mounting that this ability to exercise choice may give a long-needed shot in the arm to the deployment of renewable energy technologies.
National polls consistently reveal that between 40 and 70 percent of those sampled say they would pay a premium for environmental protection or for renewable energy, and utility company surveys reinforce those findings.
DEREGULATION PRESENTS WHAT IS PERHAPS THE BEST opportunity yet for renewables to stake a lasting claim in the electricity market.
Since most energy from renewable sources still isn't priced competitively with fossil-fueled technologies, many restructuring proposals at state and federal levels include various support mechanisms intended to drive down the renewable generation costs. The initial added expense is a necessary trade-off, advocates say, for the resulting reductions in emissions and energy price volatility.
AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR FEDERAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs is increasing. Conversely, American support of nuclear power and fossil fuels is on the decline.
That's according to a recent survey, America Speaks Out on Energy: A Survey of Federal Energy Funding Priorities, conducted by the Sustainable Energy Coalition.
A thousand registered voters were asked about federal energy budget issues.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
Power Pools & Reliability
SUMMER IN WISCONSIN. Responding to concerns about the electric shortages of the summer of 1997 and fears that they could happen again, Wisconsin PSC Commissioner Joseph P. Mettner has indicated that the state's energy supply outlook for the summer of 1998 appears much better in eastern Wisconsin than it did one year ago.
Mettner noted that Wisconsin's electric supply system is operating with expected reserve margins of 19.2 percent. But he cautioned that electric power flows do not respect borders.
Gary M. Becker
THERE'S A STORM coming. This tempest threatens to inundate management and shred shareholder value. It can't be avoided, only survived. Only those who batten down the hatches will survive.
The issue is nuclear plant decommissioning. While many would prefer to comfort themselves that the dark clouds on the horizon are still far off, trouble may come sooner than they think.
Of the 106 operating plants in the United States, more than half were licensed before 1978. Of the plants that have shut down so far, not one has reached the expiration of its license period.
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
POLITICS WON OVER PURPOSE AS AN EARLY VOTE on a nuclear waste bill in the U.S. Senate was itself laid to waste, apparently victim of a contested Senate seat in the state where spent fuel would be stored.
The June 2 vote would have limited debate on H.R. 1270. By getting a vote count, the leanings of senators on the bill would have been tested. And the way would have been paved for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to schedule a second, more formal vote on the measure.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
TELEPHONE BILLING PRACTICES. Citing the filed-rate doctrine, which bars deviation from published tariffs, a federal appeals court affirmed the dismissal of two class action suits against AT&T Corp. that sought damages for alleged fraud. The suite arose from AT&T's failure to disclose to its residential long-distance telecommunications customers its practice of rounding charges up to the higher full minute.
CROSS THE COUNTRY, CRITICISM RISES FROM INVESTOR-owned utilities as public power agencies are drawn into regional or national markets through power pools and the geographic expansion of power marketing activities. Whether these agencies are seen as federally funded or just indirectly subsidized, the complaints remain the same: tax advantages, no reciprocity, exemptions from regulation.
Who really has power over the power? Do public power agencies enjoy an advantage, as private industry claims?
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Elizabeth Striano
PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION. Chief Judge D. Brock Hornby of the U.S. District Court in Maine, decided to allow Portland Natural Gas Transmission System access to electric transmission corridors owned by Central Maine Power Co. The access will be used to install a natural gas pipeline.
Portland received FERC approval Sept. 24 for installing and operating a 292-mile, $302-million interstate pipeline. CMP owns about 70 miles of the electric transmission corridor. The preliminary injunction, issued April 10, gives Portland access to property on CMP-owned transmission corridors.
Timotny A. Bernadowski Sr.
ATER HEATER STANDARDS. Thank you for your recent "Frontlines" editorial regarding the debate on the options for basing new water heater efficiency standards ("Water Heater War," March 15, 1998, p. 6). Your article accurately captures the rhetoric which can result when standards setting actions meant to protect the public, such as the Department of Energy appliance standards, are used to promote political agendas and gain competitive advantage.
I wanted to provide some clarification regarding Virginia Power's comments on the water heater efficiency standard issue.