Bruce W. Radford and Lori M. Rodgers
RELENTLESS. That's the word consultant Benjamin Schlesinger uses to describe the growing share of North American markets claimed by natural gas produced in the U.S. Rocky Mountain region, the San Juan basin and western Canada.
"Western gas has climbed steadily, from 21 percent of North American gas production in 1975, to 33 percent in 1995," says Schlesinger, president of Benjamin Schlesinger & Associates Inc., Bethesda, Md. "It looks like that figure will reach 35 percent in the next few years.
TWO RECENT shocks could turn up the pressure on Canada's two state electricity giants to deregulate.
After January's ice storm, about half Quebec's population went without heat or light for up to a month (em at the coldest time of the year. Almost one-quarter of the provincial economy was shut down. It was the continent's worst-ever blackout and Canada's worst natural disaster. It cost Quebec 1 percent of its flagging gross domestic product.
The ice storm affected Ontario Hydro much less.
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.
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.
Lori A. Burkhart
MAINE YANKEE PRUDENCE. The Maine Public Utilities
Commission will investigate the prudence of Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.'s decision to close its nuclear plant permanently.
The PUC said Oct. 22 that unrecovered investment in Maine Yankee combined with the loss in plant value could cause additional stranded assets for plant owners Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., and Maine Public Service Co. If imprudent action is found, the PUC said it would take steps to ensure that Maine's electric ratepayers do not bear any related costs.
Steve Pickle, and Ryan Wiser
UNDER RETAIL COMPETITION, AT LEAST SOME electricity customers will make purchase decisions out of concern for the environment. A variety of utility green pricing programs already target environmentally concerned consumers. Recent experience in Massachusetts and New Hampshire confirms that utilities and power marketers are gearing up for full-fledged green power marketing to differentiate their products in a competitive environment.
Lori A. Burkhart
Hydroelectric power generation by U.S. electric utilities increased 12 percent between 1995 and 1996, according to the latest publication by the DOE's Energy Information Administration. Hydro generation contrasted with output at gas-fired units. That dropped 15 percent to 263 billion kilowatt-hours (em the lowest level since 1993 (em partly due to a substantial increase in gas prices.
According to Electric Power Annual 1996 Volume 1, the average cost of gas delivered to electric utilities on a dollars-per-million-Btu basis was $2.64 in 1996, the highest since 1985.
CINERGY MERGER CONDITIONS. FERC allows two-year deferral of prior requirement (a condition of the 1993 Cinergy merger) for Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. and PSI Energy Co. to build a 345-kV transmission line by 2000 to link territories to guarantee central dispatch for generation. Cinergy says it can now duplicate the capacity with open access. FERC Chair James Hoecker concurs, citing "further evidence that the bulk power market is working." (Docket No. EC93- 6-004, Sept. 24, 1997)
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
IN THE DRIVE TO MATCH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS WITH THE
demands of "deregulatory" standards, utilities are investing billions in information technology (em some launching new business lines from their experience.
Worldwide, utilities are investing $20 billion; electric utilities pony up the most: $12 billion each year, according to Newton-Evans Research Co. An average U.S. electric utility will invest $43 million this year; a gas utility will invest $9 million.