Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
NOX EMISSIONS. Generating heavy criticism from industry, on September 24 the Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited final rules on nitrogen oxide emissions, outlining a plan to reduce NOx by 28 percent by year 2007 in some 22 states and the District of Columbia, with state implementation plans due by September 1999 and controls in place by 2003, to be carried out through a "cap and trade" program to buy and sell NOx emissions credits.
THE OLD ADAGE ABOUT INNOVATION STILL HOLDS TRUE: "You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs." More than 70 municipal utilities have either built or plan to build telecommunications systems with fiber-optic and coaxial cable to compete against local cable television, data communications or telephony providers. Profitability for these ventures has been abysmal, but their customers and regulators are happy. Now large, investor-owned electric utilities are stumbling down the same trail marked with cast-off bandages of these early pioneers.
Lori A. Burkhart, Phillip S. Cross and Beth Lewis
MIDWEST POWER PRICES. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman James Hoecker announced July 15 that as soon as the staff presents its findings, the FERC will deal with the complaints filed by Cinergy, Steel Dynamics Inc., and others asking for regulatory relief from the late June run-up in Midwest bulk power prices (as high as $7,500 per megawatt-hour), and for a price cap set at $100/MWh. Nevertheless, Hoecker advised that the FERC was in "no hurry," and that the remedies available to it were not entirely clear. Docket No. EL98-53 (Cinergy), filed June 29, 1998; Docket No.
CROSS THE COUNTRY, CRITICISM RISES FROM INVESTOR-owned utilities as public power agencies are drawn into regional or national markets through power pools and the geographic expansion of power marketing activities. Whether these agencies are seen as federally funded or just indirectly subsidized, the complaints remain the same: tax advantages, no reciprocity, exemptions from regulation.
Who really has power over the power? Do public power agencies enjoy an advantage, as private industry claims?
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.
TWO RECENT shocks could turn up the pressure on Canada's two state electricity giants to deregulate.
After January's ice storm, about half Quebec's population went without heat or light for up to a month (em at the coldest time of the year. Almost one-quarter of the provincial economy was shut down. It was the continent's worst-ever blackout and Canada's worst natural disaster. It cost Quebec 1 percent of its flagging gross domestic product.
The ice storm affected Ontario Hydro much less.
THE PEOPLE HAVE spoken. They want choice in power supply in California and in other states. But people are also "load," at least in utility parlance. And some load in some areas can prove awfully difficult to serve. They're called "load pockets."
A load pocket is formed when a deficiency in transmission capacity to a market area cannot be priced away sufficiently to clear the market during peak-load periods. Consequently, the market area must rely on "must-run," local generation units during part of or all of the year.
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.
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.
Lori A. Burkhart
MAINE YANKEE PRUDENCE. The Maine Public Utilities
Commission will investigate the prudence of Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co.'s decision to close its nuclear plant permanently.
The PUC said Oct. 22 that unrecovered investment in Maine Yankee combined with the loss in plant value could cause additional stranded assets for plant owners Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., and Maine Public Service Co. If imprudent action is found, the PUC said it would take steps to ensure that Maine's electric ratepayers do not bear any related costs.