Bruce W. Radford
AS NEW ENERGY VENTURES, LLC EXPLAINS IN ITS PROMOtional literature, it took a long time in California for electricity competition to move from the category of "wacky idea" to widespread acceptance.
But that was before the California electric market opened in April, and before NEV had formed its New Energy Buyers' Alliance, a consortium of clients for whom NEV buys wholesale energy. The alliance includes associations like the California Retailers Association, Western Growers Association and the Independent Colleges of Southern California.
ON MARCH 26, JUST BEFORE IT OPENED THE STATE'S electricity market at midnight on the 31st, the California Public Utilities Commission announced new interim rules to protect consumers, plus this warning: "Any entity who is considering doing anything contrary to [state law] regarding electric restructuring, and [this] decision adopting such safeguards, should think twice."
Ostensibly, that advice followed from last year's passage of State S.B.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
MICHIGAN CHOICE APPEAL. Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley filed an appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals of the Michigan PSC's Jan. 14 rehearing order (News Digest, March 15, 1998, p. 18) adopting a phase-in schedule for electric restructuring and retail choice for Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison. Kelley alleged that the order fails to create a competitive generation market or foster lower rates. He called it an "outrage," that gave the utilities everything they wanted. Case Nos. u-11290 et al., Feb. 13, 1998 (Mich.P.S.C.).
NEW HAMPSHIRE RESTRUCTURING. The U.S.
Raymon E. Lark Jr.
Cynicism is nothing to scoff at. Cartoonist Scott Adams of Dilbert( fame has made a good living at it. But cynicism has an Achilles' heel. It reflects a certain lack of objectivity. It may deflect serious debate.
Consider the securitization of electric utility stranded costs. Last summer, after Ken Rose had thrown down the gauntlet against securitization, %n1%n I heard him speak at the 1997 NASUCA mid-year meeting and was struck that his message might make mischief in state regulatory and legislative arenas.
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.
David Haarmeyer, Robert T. McWhinney Jr. and Ronald Moe
USGEN IS THE NATURAL CANDIDATE TO PURCHASE NEES' generation assets. We have a well-established commitment to the region; we have strong power plant operating experience; and we have been a leader in promoting competition and customer choice in gas and electric industries."
(em USGen President and CEO Joseph P. Kearney
In August 1997, U.S. Generating Co., an affiliate of PG&E Corp., successfully bid $1.59 billion in a competitive auction for all of New England Electric System's non-nuclear generating business (18 power plants, plus power purchase contracts and other assets).
Joseph F. Schuler Jr.
THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for their coupons.
These utilities (see sidebar, "Going Once, Going Twice¼ Sold!") can expect their credit ratings to remain firm or even jump (em although that's debated by analysts. Such improved ratings may surprise market observers led to believe that loss of utility collateral would hurt investment grades.
Nuclear Plant Fines. The Nuclear Regulatory Commis-
sion has proposed fines totaling $2.1 million against Northeast Nuclear Energy Co. for many violations at the company's Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Conn. The fine marks the largest civil penalty ever proposed by the NRC. Northeast Utilities said it will pay the fine, which it called "a necessary and important step toward bringing to closure a very disappointing and difficult chapter in the company's history." The utility said it will not pass the cost onto ratepayers.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross, and Beth Lewis
CONSUMER FRAUD. The National Association of Attorneys
General, meeting Nov. 18 in Washington, D.C., to discuss electric restructuring, issued a warning to electric consumers on fraudulent schemes and abusive practices by scam artists. The warning encourages consumers to check their electric bills for unusual provider names or charges, and to avoid participating in contests that require a signature that can be used to switch an account.
RATE REDUCTION BONDS.
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?