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.
Lori A. Burkhart
PITTSBURGH CHALLENGES MERGER; ALLEGES COLLUSION
The city of Pittsburgh has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Allegheny Power Systems Inc., and Duquesne Light Co., to stop the merger proposed by the two companies.
In its Sept. 29 court filing, Pittsburgh claimed the two utilities acted jointly to restrain trade. The city said the companies did this by agreeing to maintain higher rates for electric retail service at two industrial sites targeted for redevelopment zones pending their merger.
EPA Proposal Has IOUs Fuming
Electric utilities single-handedly to reduce smog.
MIDWEST AND OHIO VALLEY STATES ARE EXPECTED to get hit hardest by the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce smog.
Ohio, for example, is home to American Electric Power, one of the biggest contributors of NOx emissions at nearly a half million pounds per year (see chart).
The EPA proposed Oct. 10 that 22 states reduce nitrogen oxide (em a key element of smog (em citing electric utilities as the main source.
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.
Lori M. Rodgers
A state-by-state look at retail competition.
RHODE ISLAND'S CUSTOMER CHOICE PROGRAM FOR LARGE-industrial and government consumers is five months old. California consumers will see retail choice on Jan. 1. New York, Illinois, Idaho and Washington have pilot programs well under way. And a statewide pilot program was set to begin this month in Pennsylvania.
Yet retail choice may prove vulnerable in New Hampshire (em the one state that has shown the greatest commitment to retail choice.
Edward L. Flippen
With benefits unclear, PUCs will "go slow."
California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont have given customers the right to choose their electric providers.
Other states are considering similar legislation.
In Congress, U.S. representatives Schaefer (R-Colo.), Markey (D-Mass.), DeLay (R-Tex.), and U.S. Sen. Bumpers (D-Ark.) and others have slapped bills on the table that would give choice to electric customers on a national scale.
Lori A. Burkhart
Investor-owned utilities serving the Southeast U.S. are well-positioned to face increasing competition, but the region's municipal joint power agencies and electric co-ops may face serious losses.
That's the finding of a Moody's Investors Service regional study, the fourth in a series.
The "Southeast Electric Break-Even Analysis" estimates $24 billion in stranded costs for the region, with cooperatives and JPAs holding a disproportionately high portion of the per-kilowatt costs.
Throughout the 1990s, investor-owned utilities have redefined the way they do business to position themselves for competition better. The downside of these efforts is higher rates for small customers and employee layoffs.
Today, IOUs are more focused on improved efficiency. IOUs are concentrating on keeping large customers, investing less in their utility systems and retiring debt.
Though IOUs continue to dominate electric generation nationwide (74 percent), electric output has increased by only 8.1 percent since 1990.
Cliff Rochlin, and Roger Clayton
Divide the grid by usage (em local vs. regional. Apportion costs accordingly, to energy customers by fixed charge, and power producers by flow and distance.
Traditionally, utilities have received transmission costs through an average, rolled-in access fee, or postage-stamp approach. In a deregulated environment, that approach will lead to distorted pricing.
And not just because of transmission-line congestion.
Much of the current debate over electric transmission pricing has centered on the various competing methods of congestion pricing, such as zonal vs.
David E. Wojick
Competition abounds at wholesale, but retail is another story.
Will geography, politics and regional economics stand in the way of real choice for electric consumers at the retail level? Consider this tale of two power players.
One competitor, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, is proud of itself. In its annual report, IMPA says that open access and competition in the wholesale market allowed it to trim wholesale rates for power it delivered to member distribution companies in 1996. "The results were remarkable," the report reads.