Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
ELECTRIC RETAIL PRICES. The Energy Information Administration has released a new report finding that the average retail price of electricity has declined for the third year in a row and remained stable for the first nine months of 1997. According to Electric Sales and Revenue 1996, average residential electric prices declined slightly in 1996, the first drop for that consumer class since the EIA began collecting data in 1984.
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.
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 M. Rodgers
A state-by-state look at retail competition.
RHODE ISLAND'S CUSTOMER CHOICE PROGRAM FOR LARGE-industrial and government consumers is five months old. California consumers will see retail choice on Jan. 1. New York, Illinois, Idaho and Washington have pilot programs well under way. And a statewide pilot program was set to begin this month in Pennsylvania.
Yet retail choice may prove vulnerable in New Hampshire (em the one state that has shown the greatest commitment to retail choice.
George R. Hall, and Richard J. Pierce, Jr.
New legislation would tackle the most difficult problem (em low load factors for small-volume customers.
We commend the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act, SB 215, passed by the Georgia General Assembly in March. (Governor Zell Miller was expected to sign the bill in April.) The Georgia legislation envisions a new framework for regulating the retail gas market.
Phillip S. Cross
In two recent rulings, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized electric utilities to call upon ratepayers to help cover losses from rate discounts and write off sunk investment in nuclear power plants. Ratepayer contributions in each case will come through incentive clauses by which revenues or losses are shared on an 80-20 basis between customers and company stockholders.
Rate Discounts. In one case, the PSC allowed Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
Residential Pilot Programs:
Customer choice and electric restructuring may appear synonymous to regulators, but for utilities "choice" means "market share."
THERE WERE 19 PILOT PROGRAMS
planned or underway in the United States by the end of November, involving some 500,000 customers in all classes. The goal? To test competition in retail electric markets.
In the residential class, pilots were operating in Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York. Massachusetts expected to roll out its pilot by January 1. Pennsylvania was planning an April startup.
SCEcorp has a new corporate structure and name: Edison International. It also has a new subsidiary, Edison Source, which specializes in solutions for energy efficiency, the environment, and energy marketing. Edison International now has five subsidiaries; its flagship, Southern California Edison, is the nation's second-largest IOU.
Phillip S. Cross
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has turned back a pre-merger attempt by Puget Sound Power and Light Co. to make permanent a $165.5-million rate increase allowed under its periodic rate adjustment mechanism (PRAM). (The PRAM is designed to remove disincentives to utility conservation efforts by "decoupling" revenues from sales levels and relying instead on a revenue-per-customer approach to cost recovery.) Puget had earlier agreed to defer a scheduled base-rate filing pending the UTC's review of its proposed merger with Washington Energy Co.
Phillip S. Cross
While approving a $58.8-million annual rate increase for Puget Sound Power & Light Co., the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has also agreed to terminate its experimental periodic rate adjustment mechanism (PRAM).