Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson appointed three new members to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board for two-year terms. J. Brian Atwood is the executive vice president of Citizens Energy Corp. and director of Citizens International. Daphne Kwok is the executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans Inc. Burton Richter is the Paul Pigott Professor of Physical Sciences at Stanford University and director emeritus of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
Lori A. Burkhart
California has a plan to track green electricity, but can it be trusted?
All electricity is the same, but the California Energy Commission wants to change that. It plans a system to authenticate the source of electricity to allow consumers to buy power from specific generators. Standard documents called "Certificates of Specific Generation" would certify financial transactions. Presumably, the plan would help document the authenticity of non-generic electricity products, such as green power.
T+D Investment Risk. The Maine PUC appeared to take a pro-consumer stance in setting principles it will use to set a revenue requirement for transmission and distribution (T&D) services provided by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. after the company becomes a wires-only utility on March 1. The PUC downplayed the risk of wires operations, adopting a return on equity of 11 percent and disallowing about $3.5 million of some $71 million in claimed T&D costs.
Gas Retail Rate Design. In a move toward equalizing rates of return between customer classes, the Oregon PUC authorized Northwest Natural Gas Co. to increase base rates by nearly $246,000, at the same time boosting residential rates by 1.3 percent but lowering rates for large commercial and industrial users. It set return on equity at 10.25 percent, finding the rate "consistent with the downward trend of ROEs authorized by other regulatory commissions." Order No. 99-697, Nov. 12, 1999 (Ore.P.U.C.).
Mergers & Acquisitions
Joint Ventures. The Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, issued draft antitrust guidelines for "collaborations among competitors" that will apply to a wide range of joint ventures and strategic alliances other than actual mergers.
Such collaborations would include R&D efforts, information sharing and joint efforts in marketing, distribution, sales or purchasing, plus various types of trade association activities. File No. 971201, Oct. 1, 1999 (F.T.C.), published at 64 Fed. Reg.
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.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
Distributed Generation. California opened a rulemaking proceeding to consider regulatory reforms in electricity distribution service, with a possible focus on distributed generation. The commission emphasized that its intent was not to define new policies, but to gather information. Comments are due March 17, and the commission intends to consider a proposal from the assigned commissioner this summer. Rulemaking 98-12-015, Dec. 17, 1998 (Calif. P.U.C.).
Gas Transportation Rates.
Bruce W. Radford
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.
Carl J. Levesque
Hurdles loom in 10 states eyeing deregulation.
Lawsuits and delayed deadlines. A "go slow" approach and more studies. Stranded cost debates and commission reports that make recommendations but avoid concrete action.
With a new wave of states addressing electric competition, these are a few of the themes that have emerged in 1998. In most states, the process has been slow, though the start of competition does, in fact, appear closer in many.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
Electric Retail Choice. The Arkansas Public Service Commission has issued its final report on electric restructuring, citing a "broad" consensus favoring competition. It predicts immediate benefits for industrial customers, but warns that residential users likely will not see any quick rate cut. The PSC saw competition as consistent with action in neighboring states:
• Oklahoma. State law mandates retail choice by July 1, 2002.
• Mississippi. PSC plan would phase-in competition from 2001 to 2004.