THE CALIFORNIA DEBATE OVER ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING IS now nearly four years old. And though it is nearing its final stages (the opening is now set for March 31), some of the most important questions as to how this will work in practice are just emerging.
The original bargain had called for the state's three large investor-owned utilities to vest basic control of their transmission networks in the new independent system operator in exchange for maintaining combined ownership of generation and transmission assets (and for a good level of assured stranded cost recovery).
SOME PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW WHAT "GREEN POWER" means (em and, by extension, "environmentally friendly." Does that mean low emissions, including nuclear energy? Is renewable energy automatically green? Should the simple fact of compliance with all standards imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency afford the right to advertise power generation as green?
Consumers, agencies and state and federal officials want truth in advertising. Proponents of alternative generation claim consumers are willing to pay more for cleaner, greener energy.
Lori M. Rodgers
NO ONE LIKES TO BE TOLD THAT HE OR SHE ISN'T CEN-
tral to the job at hand. But that was part of the message that Vinod Dar, managing director of Hagler Bailly's restructuring group, told a gathering of state public utility commissioners.
Take electric utility industry restructuring, for example. At the beginning of the game, Dar said, regulators are important because they create the intellectual structure. They are also important at the end game, to codify rules.
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 A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
CONSUMER FRAUD. The National Association of Attorneys
General, meeting Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C., to discuss electric restructuring, issued a warning to electric consumers on fraudulent schemes and abusive practices by scam artists. The warning encourages consumers to check their electric bills for unusual provider names or charges, and to avoid participating in contests that require a signature that can be used to switch an account.
RATE REDUCTION BONDS.
Bruce W. Radford
THERE ARE NO FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS. Our systems are functional."
So said CEO Dennis Loughridge, of the California Power Exchange, in announcing nevertheless on Dec. 22 that the opening of the state's day-ahead electricity market, planned originally for Jan. 1, would be delayed because software and systems testing could not be completed satisfactorily.
"California's electron highway is the fifth largest in the world. We need to take the time to make the transfer¼ seamless," added Gary Heath, executive director for the state's electricity oversight board.
Karl Stahlkopf and Philip R. Sharp
POWER DISTURBANCES COST U.S. ELECTRIC CUSTOMERS about $26 billion each year: nearly three times the anticipated annual saving from deregulation.
Competition and restructuring will only turn up the pressure, as the grid carries more low-cost power over longer distances to a wider variety of customers.
Already we are seeing a rapid rise in wholesale power transactions. Some utilities now complete as many such transactions in one day as they previously made in one week. Overall, the value of wholesale transactions has increased fourfold over the last decade.
NERC Assessments are Fine, but DOE Task Force Gets Last Word
Go figure. Plans to shut down nuclear generation in Ontario should not affect electricity supplies this winter within the United States, despite early rumors of chaos and rising natural gas prices. However, an unexpected slowdown in coal delivery by some U.S. railroads has "seriously reduced" on-site stockpiles of coal at some generating plants in three regional reliability councils - ERCOT, SERC and SPP - particularly those dependent on coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
Lori A. Burkhart
AT HIS 21ST HEARING ON FEDERAL ELECTRIC Restructuring, Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said the two-day proceedings were the "beginning" of developing consensus on legislation.
Fellow subcommittee members spoke out on competitive issues at the Oct. 21 hearing, which highlighted their lack of consensus. The Clinton Administration was represented by the Department of Energy's Deputy Secretary, Elizabeth Moler, who said nothing about its restructuring plans.
Bruce W. Radford
A SUNDAY AFTERNOON, NOT THREE WEEKS 'TIL CHRISTMAS, and I was holed up at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, attending a workshop (no Santa, no elves) on electric transmission pricing.
I wasn't alone, however. At least 200 others had filled the hotel's East Room near to capacity to hear about such topics as nodes, zones, access charges and load duration curves. The 5th National Electricity Forum, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, was under way.