Docket No. EL00-91-000, 92 FERC
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
These executives are energizing the power business with their persistence, ideas and pure gut instincts.
What is an innovator? Must he, or she, be an inventor? Or merely an idea-prone CEO with a knack for building a string of successful companies? Or could an innovator be both a scientist and CEO?
In this first-ever feature, Fortnightly has chosen innovators from all segments of the energy business.
CUSTOMER SERVICE LINKED THE FIVE FINALISTS OF THE 1998 ULTRA competition, with all addressing, and improving, some aspect of serving end users.
The contest winner, Florida Power & Light Co., combined old hardware with new software and other innovations - such as using the Internet - to address a problem that plagues many utilities: how to cut the number of just-paid delinquent customers who call for power reconnects.
KCPL first with meters, automation; APS second for T&D management.
IF THE 1997 ULTRA COMPETITION CAN SERVE AS A GUIDE, then perhaps the forgotten "wires" business offers the next great opportunity for new applications in information technology.
That's the lesson of this year's contest, which saw Kansas City Power & Light Co., and Arizona Public Service Co. win the top two prizes. Each company gained recognition for IT applications designed in large part to modernize electric utility distribution systems.
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.
Bruce W. Radford
My electric company, Potomac Electric Power Co., has announced a joint venture with RCN Corp. of Princeton, N.J., to offer local and long-distance telephone service to callers in Washington, D.C., and nearby areas, plus cable television and high-speed connections to the Internet. With stockholder money, PEPCO would compete head-on against Bell Atlantic, which won approval from the Federal Communications Commission on Aug. 14 for its $25-billion merger with NYNEX.
Reporting the story, The Washington Post quoted PEPCO President John M.
Leonard M. Fuld, and Diane Borska
Identifying a core competency is not as easy as it seems.
Utilities have developed a "Gold Rush" mentality. That is, they have begun to chase after the latest (em and sometimes fleeting (em opportunities, often abandoning their roots and their long-held strengths in the process. Supposedly, this first-in-market race will allow traditional utilities to remain competitive. Yet, all this racing has caused strong regional players to enter markets blindly, without the competitive knowledge or strategic underpinnings that will allow them to succeed in the long term.
Bruce W. Radford
Dominion Resources touts its "impacted" method, but opponents call it a "stalking horse" (em a scheme to avoid full review at FERC.
Is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission prepared to accept true marginal-cost pricing for electric transmission?
With all the criticism leveled at the traditional "contract path," one would think that the FERC would consider a new approach to transmission pricing.
In fact, last year in its final Order No.
William G. Shepherd
Flexible prices make markets hum,
but discounts discriminate when monopolies rule.
Many expect that the electricity industry is moving inexorably toward a much-publicized "new competitive era." Companies, regulatory officials and experts all regard the momentum as powerful.
So far, the changes are just beginning, and there is a long way to go to reach fully effective competition. %n1%n Yet even at this early stage, the merger and pricing strategies adopted by the established electric firms may be threatening the prospects for competition.