Hoecker, Trebing see advantages in economies of scale.
Will New York's proposed independent system operator fall victim to the FERC's evolving RTO process?
"It has some conceivable drawbacks," FERC Chairman James J. Hoecker told attendees at the 30th Annual Institute of Public Utilities Conference. "One is that it's a single-state ISO and in the final analysis, regional transmission organizations probably need to cover broader geographical areas."
Will inaction in the Senate and House prompt FERC to move ahead?
About 36 bills with the word "electric" in them were introduced in the 105th Congress. According to Capitol Hill and industry association staff, the 106th Congress, officially begun Jan. 6, appears likely to see fewer restructuring bills, but steadfast champions.
Likelier still are developments outside of Congress that will shape energy policy and perhaps beat legislators to the punch.
As utility takeovers break new ground, the FERC ponders proposed rules, perhaps already out of date.
A year ago, when U.S. Antitrust Czar Joel Klein talked of a "window of opportunity" for electric utility mergers, he didn't predict when it would close.
And it hasn't yet.
In the 12 months leading up to January 1998, when Klein had addressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through its "Distinguished Speakers" series, only the ill-timed Primergy deal had been turned down. The next year, 1998, would prove no different.
No clear consensus has emerged. Should regulators hold to a hard line?
Regulators have wrestled for decades with transactions between vertically integrated monopoly utilities and their corporate affiliates.
Most problems have usually involved a shifting of costs, risk, or profit, as when an electric utility buys coal from a subsidiary. On the telephone side, AT&T's equipment dealings with Western Electric and Bell Labs were always a worry for regulators.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
ISO GUIDELINES. Marking a contrast with California, but lining up with states in the Northeast, the Iowa Utilities Board has urged that independent system operators should have authority to order redispatch to help fulfill service requirements for electric transmission. That rule came as part of a set of principles issued by the board to guide the formation of ISOs in managing electric transmission systems and preventing the exercise of market power.
By Elizabeth Striano, managing editor, and Lori A. Burkhart, contributing legal editor, of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION met Aug. 14 in Chicago to address complaints filed concerning late-June electric price spikes in the Midwest, which saw prices climb a high as $7,000 per megawatt-hour.
Back in July, Commissioner James Hoecker had noted, "We need to know what led to the price spikes, and what ¼ this tells us about emergency market behaviors." He added: "We foresee a growing role for this commission in monitoring market performance."
FORCING A DIVESTITURE SHOULD REMAIN AN OPTION for regulators in a clear case of market power abuse, NARUC members have agreed.
NARUC's executive committee also has opened discussion on a five-year business plan that would increase the association's visibility, improve its technology and make better use of the $10 million it has in reserves.
Members at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners summer meetings in Seattle, Wash., asked states to give them "clear and adequate authority" to protect consumers from market power.
No one has yet explained why the electric industry needs independent system operators to manage the transmission grid and a private institution to do essentially the same thing.
That question remains unanswered even now that the North American Electric Reliability Council has released its draft legislation showing how it would recreate itself as NAERO, a self-regulating electric reliability organization insulated from antitrust scrutiny by governmental oversight.
"Reliability does not exist in a vacuum," noted P.R.H. Landrieu, v.p.
So they say. Many believe that utility control over electric metering exerts a chilling effect on retail choice in energy. They claim that competitive energy service providers cannot earn a high-enough margin on the commodity alone, but must offer companion services - metering, billing and value-added options.
Yet the road to competitive metering is pitted with potholes. Utilities, ESPs and private meter vendors and manufacturers can be found arguing over a raft of issues.
WHEN 42 PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSIONERS HUDDLED in private recently at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver to discuss their roles come 2003, they came to a striking conclusion: Someday they might be out of business. Some said it would take five years, others said as long as 10.
"There was quite a bit of discussion and interest in commissions actually formulating what they call an 'exit plan,' by which they meant, in a kind of systematic way ... being prepared to wind back on their regulatory oversight," says Douglas N.
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