Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
PAT WOOD III LIKENS HIS JOB TO CLEARING THE UNDER-brush "so the general can march through."
The "general" is the Texas Legislature; Wood is chairman of the state Public Utility Commission; the battle is electric utility restructuring.
To an outsider, it looks like Wood's commission is way out in front of the state's elected officials. Legislators are adjourned this year but the seven-member Senate Interim Committee on Electric Utility Restructuring is doing its best to sort through hearings on market power, transmission and distribution, reliability and other issues.
Bruce W. Radford
PLANS OK'D for electric IOUs under New York's Competitive Opportunities docket.
CENTRAL HUDSON GAS & ELECTRIC CORP. RETAIL CHOICE: Offered to 8 percent of total load in 1998; additional 8 percent each year; choice for all by July 1, 2001. SAVINGS: $10.5 million to fund 5-percent rate cut for large industrials; all other rates frozen (since 1993) through June 30, 2001. Earmarks $24.5 million for incentives for residential, commercial and small industrial classes. Generation backout rate is highest among IOU restructuring plans.
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
DOES IT MATTER THAT NEW YORK'S PROPOSED RELIAbility Council won't be truly independent, even though its distinctly separate independent system operator now plans to require pristine board membership?
Both organizations begin operating as early as July. On paper, any conflict between market needs (i.e. generation) and reliability issues (largely transmission and distribution) will head to the state public service commission or FERC. But reality may force that hand in the effort to restructure New York's wholesale market.
Steven P. Schneider
THREE FACTORS (em RESTRUCTURING, TECHNOLOGY AND environmental controls (em now create both reason and opportunity for electric utilities to lower their property taxes, which often make up a substantial cost of doing business.
Property tax valuation is fairly straightforward. Most states compute property taxes on fair market value, or what a hypothetical buyer and seller would agree the property is worth, with both parties having knowledge of the relevant facts and neither compelled to buy or sell.
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).
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for their coupons.
These utilities (see sidebar, "Going Once, Going Twice¼ Sold!") can expect their credit ratings to remain firm or even jump (em although that's debated by analysts. Such improved ratings may surprise market observers led to believe that loss of utility collateral would hurt investment grades.
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.
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
WHAT IS A SCHEDULING COORDINATOR?
At least 33 organizations know the answer to that question in California because by late last year that's how many SCs had filed to act as go-betweens to the independent system operator.
Although the definition varies depending on who's asked, an SC is simply a preschedule and dispatch office. An SC puts a power schedule together for itself or for energy service providers a day ahead or hour ahead.
Eric Charles Woychik
AFTER A FOUR-YEAR DEBATE ON ELECTRICITY REFORM, CALIfornia's powerful industry players have carved out a unique and broad new role for "scheduling coordinators." SCs have the central role in offering fully unbundled generation, transmission and retail-access services. But could these SCs, by controlling the market, also become the new monopolists?
California's highly complex scheme for markets, while said to be laissez faire, maintains several artificial constraints and market protocols that create advantages for SCs.