Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1995

California Fines Cellular Firms

Four facilities-based cellular telecommunications companies will pay fines totalling $5.52 million following a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) investigation of compliance with its cellular tower siting regulations. The four firms (em Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co., Mountain Cellular, GTE Mobilnet of California, and Bay Area Cellular (em had either failed to file applications for siting approval with the CPUC prior to construction or failed to obtain proper permits for construction from other governmental agencies.

Wisconisn Orders LDCs to Restructure Rates

Gas local distribution companies (LDCs) in Wisconsin must provide unbundled balancing services for transportation customers at cost-based rates under new rules adopted by state regulators. The new rules came out of a Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) investigation of LDC tariff changes required as a result of pipeline restructuring at the federal level.

The PSC ruled that balancing is required where an LDC is served by a pipeline with balancing provisions that contain penalties that default to the LDC, and hence to system sales customers.

TransCanada Adopts Poison Pill

TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. has adopted a plan to encourage fair treatment of shareholders in event of a takeover offer. The plan addresses concerns that existing Canadian law does not allow enough time for the board or shareholders to properly consider a takeover bid. Under the plan, shareholder rights can only be exercised when a person announces the intention to acquire 20 percent or more of TransCanada's common shares without complying with the "permitted bid" provisions of the rights plan.

Rate Discounts Pave the Way for Restructuring

Much attention has been paid to revolutionary rate-reform plans advanced to meet perceived competition in energy markets. So much, in fact, that the increasing popularity of the special discount rate has gone virtually unnoticed.

New York Reviews QF Backup Service

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has turned down a request to create a special rate for backup service to qualifying facilities (QFs) with dispatchable contracts. The PSC made the ruling while reviewing a request by Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. for permission to increase its rates for backup services provided to customers with onsite generation, primarily QFs. The utility had withdrawn the proposed rates, but only after the parties to the case claimed that the rate proposal was designed to kill competition, especially from smaller QF projects.

Idaho PUC Split on QF Contract Buy-Outs

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a Utah Power & Light Co. proposal to buy out a QF contract with Firth Cogeneration Partners Ltd., which the PUC found cost-efficient less than eight months ago. The utility said that the grandfathered avoided-cost contract rates were too high, and that lower-cost supplies were available from other sources.

While granting authority for the buyout, the PUC denied approval for accounting treatment and rate recovery of $4.4 million in cancellation fees suggested by the utility.

FERC Upheld on Municipal Preference for Hydro Licensing

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finding that the municipal preference in hydropower project relicensing cases did not apply to "orphaned" facilities. Facilities are considered orphaned if the current license holder files a notice of intent to apply for a relicense, but then fails to file a timely application.

DSM Programs Must Target Consumers, Not Just Technology

One of the great attractions of demand-side management (DSM) lies in its ability to accommodate one-stop shopping. In contrast to the traditional supply-side approach, DSM allows energy utilities to minimize price hikes and maintain environmental quality even while meeting increasing needs.

Nevertheless, some of the initial excitement has waned. For example, The Wall Street Journal reviewed 11 programs in late 1993 and found that 8 realized less than half their projected savings.

PG&E May Move Natural Gas Pipes to FERC

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) is moving forward with a proposal to transfer jurisdiction over its mainline natural gas transmission facilities and storage system from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The natural gas pipelines at issue cross into the southwestern United States as well as Canada.

V