Calendar of Events

Sep 29, 2014 to Oct 03, 2014 | Michigan State University, Lansing MI
Oct 01, 2014 to Oct 03, 2014 | Washington, DC

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Public Utilities Reports

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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Tariff Tinkering

FERC says it won’t ‘change’ the native-load preference, but don’t bet on it.

Bruce W. Radford

When FERC opened wholesale power markets to competition a decade ago in Order No. 888, it codified a system for awarding grid access known as the pro forma Open-Access Transmission Tariff (OATT), founded on physical rights, and on the fiction that electrons travel along a “contract path.” Should the commission “tinker” with the OATT, making only surgical changes to make it current? Or, do events instead warrant a complete overhaul?

Focus on LNG Siting: A State Perspective

Congress revamps LNG and storage, giving broad new powers to FERC. Why the Feds still must consult with local authorities.

Ken Costello

A major objective of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) is to counter the worsened conditions in the natural-gas market that began in 2000 and are expected to continue over the next several years—namely, tight natural-gas supplies and high, volatile gas prices caused by a distinct shift in the supply-demand balance. Any noticeable reductions in gas prices that might be effectuated by the act will have little impact on natural-gas prices for a number of years.

The Gas Storage Conundrum

Congress allows market-based rates. How will FERC respond?

J. Michel Marcoux

As a rare amendment to a venerable statute, EPACT05 § 312, New Natural Gas Storage Facilities, made headlines, adding an option for interstate, market-based storage rate making. It would encourage new storage facilities by permitting FERC to authorize market-based storage rates, even when the applicant is unable to demonstrate it lacks market power. After authorizing such rates, FERC periodically must review them.The problem with the new law is that it does not specify those review periods.

Frontlines

Is the predicted crisis this winter a failure of policy, the market, or both?

Richard Stavros

Given the free market in natural gas, why haven't prices attracted the needed infrastructure or supply? (LNG imports are actually down from last year.) What policies could have been contemplated ahead of national legislation? Or put more simply, why has supply lagged demand?

Commission Watch

FERC mulls rival plans at the last minute, while on the West Coast, California gets into the game.

Bruce W. Radford

FERC, the ISO, and many other parties had seen no reason for further debate over the need for a location-specific capacity market. By limiting debate, FERC had foreclosed a raft of competing ideas. When the moment finally arrived for the oral argument at FERC, attorneys and witnesses attempted valiantly in the precious few minutes allotted each speaker to flesh out new ideas, and the commissioners struggled as well to keep up. This highly unusual situation made for a helter-skelter hearing, with new topics seeming to come out of the woodwork.

Rate-Base Cleansings: Rolling Over Ratepayers

State PUCs should recognize a refundable regulatory liability for past charges to ratepayers.

Michael J. Majoros Jr.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board SFAS No.143 identifies an immediate need for state public utilities commissions to recognize a refundable regulatory liability for past charges to ratepayers for non-legal asset retirement costs. Although these prior charges resulted in billions of dollars of regulatory liabilities on utilities' generally accepted accounting principles financial statements, they are almost invisible on the regulatory financial statements of the utilities. Unless the state PUCs specifically recognize the liabilities, the utilities will have the opportunity to institute a rate-base "cleansing" by transferring ratepayer-fronted money into income.

New England: A Critical Look at Competition

Seven years after restructuring, challenges remain. Should the region stay the course?

Gordon van Welie

Electric restructuring—identified in some quarters with Enron, California, and the August 2003 blackout—has brought significant, measurable benefits to us in New England. Seven years after restructuring began, it's a good time to assess the challenges that remain and gauge whether to stay the course toward continued restructuring.

A Welcome Truce in the Electricity Wars

Let's enjoy this brief period of diminished acrimony before implementation of this landmark law.

Peter Fox-Penner

In a time of record high gasoline prices, war, and increasingly shared global climate concerns, it is lamentable that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 does so little to address these critical issues. Within the narrower context of policies primarily affecting the electric power industry, however, this is a much more significant piece of legislation, and it includes a few accomplishments bordering on the extraordinary.

Big-Time Mergers? Not So Fast, My Friend...

 Whole-company deals may not take off with PUHCA repeal.

Edward Metz and Michael Tarney

One simple line in the recent Energy Policy Act sets the stage for broader geographical ownership by current utilities and easier ownership from outside industries. Readers know very well that one line calls for the repeal of the depression-era Public Utility Holding Company Act, and many pundits have stated that a wave of mergers and acquisition activity is now imminent.

Entergy on Edge

Can a single utility dispatch a regional grid system without a financial market?

Bruce W. Radford

Now comes Entergy’s pending plan to create an “Independent Coordinator of Transmission” to manage certain grid operations. On the surface, the plan would create independent accountability for the transmission grid, as called for in FERC Order No. 2000, with special attention paid to planning and expansion. Will the model work? Can it improve grid access for IPPs and reduce energy costs for Entergy’s ratepayers?

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