Calendar of Events

Sep 29, 2014 to Oct 03, 2014 | Michigan State University, Lansing MI
Oct 01, 2014 to Oct 03, 2014 | Washington, DC

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Public Utilities Reports

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Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

The wires business goes up for grabs as California opens its landmark case on distributed generation.

Jay Morse has studied distributed generation for the past seven years. Today, as an engineer and policy analyst on regulatory transition and market development issues for the California PUC's Office of Ratepayer Advocates, he sits in the eye of the storm. Technology is busting out all over, says Morse, who calls himself the "godfather" of DG in California's electric restructuring.

T&D Reliability: The Next Battleground in Re-Regulation

Dan O'Neill

PUCs turn their attention to what they can still control.

The battleground has shifted. Utilities that last year worried about winning customers in pilot programs for retail choice now face public audits on the reliability of transmission and distribution.

With rate cases in remission, no nukes on order and generation planning left to the market, public utility commissions are turning their attention to what they can still regulate. That means service quality. Nor are PUCs the only ones involved.

News Digest

Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Carl J. Levesque

Studies and Reports

Natural Gas Retail Choice. Utility affiliates hold large market shares in natural gas customer choice programs, raising questions about the extent of true competition, according to a study released on Dec. 15 by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Participation varies by region, however, according to the report, "Energy Deregulation - Status of Natural Gas Customer Choice Programs."

In Pennsylvania, for example, three out of four programs showed very high shares for utility affiliates. The Equitable Gas Co.

Generating Plant Sales and Acquisitions: Who's Doing What, and Why

Dean Maschoff, James Pardikes, David Thompson, Michael Rutkowski, and Nainish Gupta

Sales prices for power generation assets in the United States during the past two years have climbed to unprecedented levels. This trend should continue. More than 20,000 megawatts of generation assets have been sold, with another 20,000 MW announced. During the next five years, it is expected that 70,000 to 140,000 MW will change hands. We have seen only the beginning of a massive redistribution of generation assets - from regulated utilities to unregulated marketers and plant operators.

In fact, the prices we've seen for generation assets may turn out to be bargains.

Special Report

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.

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."

Hoecker used the forum at the Dec.

Price Spike Redux: A Market Emerged, Remarkably Rational

Robert J. Michaels and Jerry Ellig

The post-mortems on last summer's price spikes in the Midwest are in. At least three studies of the event diverge in their conclusions:

First, on Sept. 24 of last year, the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the root cause of the spikes in extreme weather and unexpected outages. It observed no direct evidence of market manipulation and concluded that the events were unlikely to recur.

MAPP, MISO & PJM: Three Regions Fight Over Wires, Prices and Profits

Bruce W. Radford

Tales of bad faith, cold feet and price manipulation.

Lollipops"/fn1/ and "loopholes." "Islands" and "peninsulas." Utilities have invented a colorful new lexicon to explain what's happening at power pools and regional transmission groups. Yet the basic issue remains familiar: How to gain a competitive advantage.

People

DTE Energy Technologies named G. Paul Horst company president. Horst was founder and first chief executive officer of Nematron Corp. He pioneered the use of industrial computers to provide operator-to-machine interfaces similar to ATM machines. Since 1995, Horst has served as a director of Interface Systems and a consultant to DTE Energy.

Randy Hardy, former CEO and administrator of Bonneville Power Administration, has formed the Hardy Energy Consulting firm. Hardy will work with the Washington, D.C.

News Analysis

Lori M. Rodgers

THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY HAS OVERtaken the sweepstakes industry for the dubious title as The Most Complained About Industry.

From January through June of this year, the National Fraud Information Center received 2,071 cramming reports, plus hundreds more calls from consumers with a cramming problem but not enough details for the NFIC to file a formal report. The Federal Trade Commission defines cramming as unexplained charges on a consumer's telephone bill for services never ordered, authorized, received or used.

Utility Diversification: Munis Find Cable TV a Costly Business

Len Grzanka

THE OLD ADAGE ABOUT INNOVATION STILL HOLDS TRUE: "You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs." More than 70 municipal utilities have either built or plan to build telecommunications systems with fiber-optic and coaxial cable to compete against local cable television, data communications or telephony providers. Profitability for these ventures has been abysmal, but their customers and regulators are happy. Now large, investor-owned electric utilities are stumbling down the same trail marked with cast-off bandages of these early pioneers.

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