Lori M. Rodgers
IN THE EARLY 1970s, WHEN THE "ENERGY CRISIS" DAWNED, New York told electric utilities to stop advertising to promote electric use. State judges deemed such promotion as lacking in "any beneficial content," or even "detrimental to society." It took an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for utilities to win the right to tout their product.
Today's questions target the bottom line: Can advertising boost sales for energy suppliers? If so, what does it take?
Lori A. Burkhart
MAINE YANKEE PRUDENCE. The Maine Public Utilities
Commission will investigate the prudence of Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.'s decision to close its nuclear plant permanently.
The PUC said Oct. 22 that unrecovered investment in Maine Yankee combined with the loss in plant value could cause additional stranded assets for plant owners Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., and Maine Public Service Co. If imprudent action is found, the PUC said it would take steps to ensure that Maine's electric ratepayers do not bear any related costs.
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.
Lori A. Burkhart
Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s announcement that it wants to increase energy rates by almost $1.2 billion was met with outrage by consumer watchdog organization The Utility Reform Network.
Pacific Gas has notified the California Public Utilities Commission that it plans to file a 1999 general rate case to raise natural gas rates by $506 million to maintain gas pipeline safety and reliability. It also plans to increase electric base level rates by $703 million beginning Jan. 1, 1999 to improve service reliability.
Competition draws Christians, conspiracy theorists.
SO, WHO WANTS TO COMPETE AGAINST THE LOCAL UTILITIES? In most of the country, potential competitors tend to fall into three categories: (1) traditional utilities from within or nearby the affected state that wants to expand into foreign service territories; (2) unregulated subsidiaries of traditional utilities; or (3) power marketers and/or aggregators. In California, however, it's more of a mixed bag.
AT Washington Water Power, Bobby Schmidt was appointed director of the company, and Paul A. Redmond announced his retirement as chair and CEO. Redmond started with the company in 1965. Previously, Schmidt worked as an independent trader in Chicago.
MDU Resources Group Inc. has promoted Martin A. White from senior vice president, corporate development to president and CEO. White, who has been with the company since 1991, will replace retiring president H.J. Mellen Jr.
Robert L. Goocher was promoted to president of AGL Resources Service Co. from executive vice president and COO.
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.
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.
Lori A. Burkhart
Two California watchdog groups, The Utility Reform Network and Utility Consumers Action Network, have filed a joint protest at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against the proposed structure of California's independent system operator and power exchange (Docket Nos. EC96-19-003 and ER96-1663-003).
The groups believe the proposed structures would hurt small consumers. They noted that although small consumers use about one-third of the state's electricity, they only have two votes out of 26 in both the PX and the ISO.
James A. Montanye
Does a monopolist aim to maximize profit, or simply to hide from the antitrust laws?
AT&T's absolute monopoly in the switched long-distance telephone market ended in 1976 when MCI rolled out its Execunet service. Twenty years later economists still question whether AT&T can influence the market price of long-distance services.
Recent empirical studies are split on the question, sometimes finding AT&T has considerable market power, and sometimes finding it has none.
It appears that economists studying the long-distance industry may be misinterpreting the historical record.