Jay Maidment and Geoffrey Rothwell
April 01, 1998
WHICH NUCLEAR PLANTS WILL SURVIVE competition? To answer that question, senior managers at electric utilities must know a nuclear plant's true economic potential. Without an accurate understanding of operating economics, a utility might lose a good plant or waste resources on poorer plants that should be closed.
Of course, a shutdown may be appropriate at some plants (em perhaps a few situated in the most competitive regions, or others plagued by poor inherent physical characteristics. However, most U.S.
Bruce W. Radford
EL NIÑO HAS STRUCK, WITH NO END IN SIGHT.
Consider that Aquila Energy, the marketing arm of UtiliCorp United, has announced a new financial derivative, known as GuaranteedForecast,sm to hedge the weather against forecasts by the National Weather Service. The new product will pay holders a guaranteed amount if the mercury strays, and Aquila touts its thermometer hedge for any of 170 U.S. cities (em be it Spokane, El Paso, Chicago or New York. Why talk about the weather when you can invest in it, in true '90s fashion?
For this heating season, however, it may be too late.
Bruce W. Radford
WELCOME BACK, MY FRIENDS, TO THE SHOW that never ends."
So said two weary commission staffers, trudging out of the hearing room late Friday afternoon, Jan. 31, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission adjourned its technical conference on the financial outlook for natural gas pipelines.
The hearing ran way behind schedule (em further evidence that before she left last summer for the Department of Energy, former FERC Chairwoman Elizabeth Moler neglected to pass along to successor James Hoecker whatever gene she possessed that allowed her to keep meetings moving right along.
Mary Lashley Barcella
HAS RATE REGULATION BECOME OBSOLETE FOR NATURAL gas pipelines?
On Jan. 30, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold a public conference to review the financial health of the pipeline industry. It will ask whether its regulatory framework still works; whether pipelines can still attract new capital for investment. %n1%n Does rate policy threaten the financial integrity of the pipeline industry? That very question may come before the Commission. %n2%n
Nevertheless, the FERC need not look far for an answer.
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.
Joseph F. Schuler, Jr.
In union circles, they call it "burial insurance." That apt phrase denotes the severance, early retirement and re-training packages negotiated for veteran utility workers sideswiped by a changing market.
So far, labor has won some insurance: through legislation in California and in Maine; through a commission order in Massachusetts; and a pending settlement agreement in New York City, prompted by a commission order.
Labor lost hard in Pennsylvania and in Rhode Island, however. Worker protections weren't built into restructuring decisions in those states.
Subsidies? Maybe. But how about reciprocity? Should Congress let PMAs, munis and co-ops decline open access?
Until recently, most congressional debate on utility deregulation has focused on the future of investor-owned utilities and independent power producers and marketers. Lobbyists for government-owned or cooperative-owned power companies have tried to downplay their clients or to seek exemptions.
Bruce W. Radford
If Jane Austen were writing this column, she would begin something like this: "It is a truth university acknowledged, that a natural gas distributor in possession of a good franchise must be in want of an electric utility to merge with."
That's the rule of electric/gas convergence. But as an editor, my instinct when I uncover such a "rule" tell me to look for a reason why it ain't so. That's why I got such a kick from a recent conversation with Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Lori A. Burkhart
According to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), nuclear power continued as an important source of electricity in 1995, accounting for 22 percent of total worldwide electric generation. The report, "Nuclear Power Generation and Fuel Cycle Report 1996," projects continued worldwide growth for nuclear plants in the near term, but uncertain long-term prospects.
Worldwide, nuclear plants generated
2,225 terawatt-hours in 1995, a four percent increase from 1994 (one terawatt equals 1000 gigawatts, or one million megawatts).