Joseph F. Schuler Jr. Photography by Rick Reinhard
SCOTT SKLAR, WHO SHOWERS WITH SOLAR-HEATED water, who drinks his skim milk from his solar-powered refrigerator, who commutes via solar-powered car, who tells time by a solar-powered watch, who wears a sun-faced ring and sun-spotted tie, sweeps into a French restaurant on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.
Sklar, who has lived the Solar Energy Industries Association for more than a decade, is bald up top, but his hair sprouts out around that spot in grey-brown brillo. Glasses hug his eyes. His beard threatens to strangle him and his mustache pitches in.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
CALIFORNIA ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING. California Assemblywoman Diane Martinez, chairwoman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee, has introduced two new bills aimed at protecting consumers in a competitive market. But the measures already have been put on hold for this year. The first bill, AB 579, would cut rates for residential and small-volume commercial customers by 20 percent, rather than by 10 percent as promised in the state's restructuring act, AB 1890.
James P. O'Brien
THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY HAD A novel idea: For power plants and sources relying on devices to control air emissions, rather than attempt to monitor the actual physical emissions to determine compliance with federal law, it simply would require inspections and tests of the performance of the control device. %n1%n
This strategy was formalized in the EPA's compliance assurance monitoring (CAM) rule signed Oct. 17, 1997. The EPA's theory is that if the control device is working properly, it is likely pollutant emissions fall within the required limits.
Michael C. W. Hsu and Nguyen T. Quan
THE RAPID DEREGULATION OF THE BULK POWER MARKET has exposed utilities and power generators to the harsh reality of spot price volatility. This new reality begs the question: How can merchant generators, independent power producers and investor-owned utilities analyze their risk exposure when energy prices vary daily or even hourly?
The answer lies with spark spread options (em the link between electric power and gas prices.
Phillip S. Cross
ON THE LAST DAY OF 1997, A U.S. DISTRICT COURT IN Texas struck down sections of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that prevent former Bell System operating companies (BOCs) from entering certain lines of business, including interstate (and interLATA) long-distance. Some see the case as a clear victory for the BOCs. Others say it disrupts the delicate compromise forged by Congress among many diverse interests. In truth, the court's decision prompts a single question: Can Congress single out the BOCs for special treatment?
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
UTILITY HOUSE CALLS. Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) signed into law a bill making it a felony to impersonate a utility employee to enter private property for criminal purposes. The new law calls for those convicted to be imprisoned for not more than two years and to pay a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (R) signed into law an electric restructuring bill for the state. Edgar noted that concerns over the bill were addressed by the state's two largest utilities, Commonwealth Edison and Illinois Power Co.
AMID WORRIES THAT RESIDENTIAL CONSUMERS MAY NOT benefit from competition comes a study that shows at least one industry will: metering. This market is expected to grow an average of 5 percent per year through 2002.
By 2002, the metering industry is expected to be worth $3.1 billion, up from $2.4 billion last year, says Metering for Utilities: Riding the Wave of Deregulation, a new book from Business Communications Co.
Overall, meter reading systems are expected to log the highest average annual growth rate, about 16 percent each year over the next five years.
David E. Dismukes and Fred I. Denny
ON OCT. 31, 1997, ENTERGY CORP. AND 16 OTHER MEMBERS
announced their intention to withdraw from the Southwest Power Pool regional reliability council and join the neighboring Southeastern Electric Reliability Council. The announcement shocked the SPP and its members, plus other industry observers and stakeholders.
While significant in number, the withdrawals do not necessarily signal widespread displeasure with SPP's initiatives and performance.
THE RECENT SLOW-DOWN IN RAIL SHIPMENTS OF WESTERN coal has begun to claim victims in the electric utility industry. One of the largest in recent years, the current fuel "shortage" has hit big investor-owned utilities, small municipalities and co-ops. Increased alternative fuel and replacement purchased power cost utilities more than $150 million in 1997.
Union Pacific rail system is the source of most of the slow-down in western coal deliveries. As the company works to integrate recently acquired Southern Pacific railroad into its operations, it has encountered many difficulties.
NERC Assessments are Fine, but DOE Task Force Gets Last Word
Go figure. Plans to shut down nuclear generation in Ontario should not affect electricity supplies this winter within the United States, despite early rumors of chaos and rising natural gas prices. However, an unexpected slowdown in coal delivery by some U.S. railroads has "seriously reduced" on-site stockpiles of coal at some generating plants in three regional reliability councils - ERCOT, SERC and SPP - particularly those dependent on coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.