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?
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
WHAT IS A SCHEDULING COORDINATOR?
At least 33 organizations know the answer to that question in California because by late last year that's how many SCs had filed to act as go-betweens to the independent system operator.
Although the definition varies depending on who's asked, an SC is simply a preschedule and dispatch office. An SC puts a power schedule together for itself or for energy service providers a day ahead or hour ahead.
Phillip S. Cross
WHETHER YOU CALL IT "DEREGULATION" OR "re-regulation," the promised move to competition does not mean less regulation - at least not any time soon.
Jeff D. Makholm, and Michael J. Quinn
WHEN THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION approved a price-cap plan for Southern California Edison's distribution operations, it lamented the lack of a "distribution-only" study on productivity. So we prepared one.
Unlike electricity generation, electricity distribution will remain a regulated business. But the form of regulation likely will change to price caps, mirroring events in telecommunications regulation here and energy regulation abroad.
With price caps, rates are reviewed formally only at set intervals.
Phillip S. Cross
WITH DIRECT ACCESS SCHEDULED TO BEGIN ON Jan. 1, 1998, California regulators are moving quickly to set up their long-considered policies on electric restructuring. The restructuring actions touch nearly every aspect of electric regulation in the state from financing decisions and rate design to the sale of generating assets and monitoring new capital additions.
In addition, restructuring has affected ongoing regulatory activities such as the development of performance-based rate making plans and pricing and rate designs for large incumbent utilities.
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.
Eric Hirst, and Brendan Kirby
AS U.S. ELECTRICITY MARKETS BECOME increasingly competitive, large industrial customers will discover many new choices. These choices include the opportunity to modify the amount and timing of electricity use in response to prices that vary from hour to hour. In addition, customers can sell certain electricity services, including operating reserves and load following, to the system operator. And industrial customers with cogeneration facilities can participate fully in bulk power markets, buying and selling energy and ancillary services in response to changes in spot prices.