Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1995

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 The utility had withdrawn the proposed rates, but only after the parties to the case claimed that the rate proposal was designed to kill competition, especially from smaller QF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.

Ontario Approves Gas DSM Plan

The Ontario Energy Board has approved a $6.28-million demand-side management (DSM) plan for Consumers' Gas Co. Ltd., a natural gas distributor. The plan, reviewed as part of a major rate proceeding, won the Board's first approval since it issued integrated resource planning guidelines for gas distributors in 1993. While noting that initial period rate impacts associated with the company's DSM program were not significant, the Board stressed that rate impact testing was an important component of the DSM screening process.

Moving Off the Mainframe

No matter how you cut it, the Customer Information System (CIS) represents a utility's largest computer asset. It eats up the most disk space. It contains the most programs and lines of code. It handles the largest volume of business, whether measured in transactions or dollars.

Billing lies at the core of the CIS. It's the most complex area. But once bills go out to customers, the CIS must manage accounts receivable and the collection process, not to mention financial control and reporting.

Davis Proposes Transportation Bill

At the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' quarterly meeting in Reno, NV, Edward M. Davis, president of NAC Holding Inc. and former president of the American Nuclear Energy Council, praised regulators for recognizing the need for a centralized interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel by 1998 as well as the need for development of a transportation infrastructure.

California Modernizes DSM Shareholders Incentives

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has modified its policies on incentive mechanisms for utility demand-side management (DSM) efforts, while adopting new shareholder incentives for Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison Co., and Southern California Gas Co.

V