Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1995


Time was that operating changes drove communications changes, and employee acceptance was a given. The changes now permeating the utility industry, however, require us to think, and operate, differently. Operating and communications changes need to unfold simultaneously. If communications is constantly playing catch up to changing operations, employees begin to lose motivation and effectiveness. Eventually, customers notice and begin to complain.

Hawaii Oks PBOP Recovery

After considering the matter in several proceedings since 1991, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has decided to permit the state's utilities to include in rates the full cost of switching from cash to accrual accounting for post-retirement benefits other than pensions (PBOPs) under SFAS 106. The PUC rejected proposals to require the utilities to alter certain SFAS 106 financial reporting requirements (em for example, extending the amortization period for recovery of PBOP transition costs from 20 to 40 years.

Company Profile

When a steel mill threatened to pull out of New Jersey and move to the Southeast where electricity rates are cheaper, Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSE&G) did some creative thinking.

How could it keep the mill, Co-Steel Raritan, and its 500 jobs and $36-million annual payroll in Perth Amboy, NJ?

After considerable negotiation, PSE&G proposed an experimental hourly pricing plan that lets Co-Steel Raritan take advantage of the lowest fuel costs within the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) pool.

Federal Preemption Blocks Municipal Condemnation

A U.S. District Court (Eastern District, Oklahoma) has ruled that the City of Stilwell's attempted condemnation of Ozark Electric Cooperative facilities and customers within an annexed area of the city's corporate boundaries was preempted under federal law. The court found that allowing the city to "skim the cream" of the co-op's service area would frustrate the Rural Electrification Act's (REAct's) objective of providing reliable and affordable electric service to rural America.

"Comparability" Breeds Contention

The pending merger of El Paso Electric Co. (EPE) and Central and South West Services, Inc. (CSW) keeps going and going and going. But the issue of "comparability" has yet to be left in the dust. And so another landmark case looms large, giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) another opportunity to shape future wheeling and merger transactions.

Senate Seeks to Open Telecom

Republican members of the Senate Commerce Committee have released an outline of draft telecommunications legislation that would remove all state or local barriers to entry for telecommunications service. The legislation would allow any regional Bell operating company (RBOC) to apply to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to offer interexchange services (em subject to generic safeguards, such as a separate subsidiary requirement. If the FCC certifies that interconnection/opening requirements have been satisfied, the RBOC request must be granted.

What Utilities Should Expect from Competitive Intelligence

Electric utilities are informationally dysfunctional. When we surveyed electric utility managers from around the country, we found a general consensus: Individual employees may possess vital information, but typically they do not know what to do with it. They don't understand why it's important or who may need it.

FERC's Santa on "New Power Industry"

Commissioner Donald F. Santa, Jr., offered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC's) view of the "New Power Industry" at the 3rd annual electricity conference sponsored by the Western Energy and Communications Association and the Los Angeles Power Producers Association in Irvine, CA. Santa acknowledged current trends toward disaggregation, but said he doubted that a single, uniform, nationwide industry structure would emerge.

Making a Case for Information Technologies

Financial models within the utility industry are changing rapidly. Driven by competition, deregulation, and shareholder concern ov er profitability, North America's intermediate and larger-sized electric and gas companies are looking more closely at information technology (IT) investments.

Financial News

On December 12, 1994, Craven Crowell, chairman of the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), issued two well-publicized announcements. First, TVA would not finish three of the nuclear units it has had under construction since the 1970s, unless it could find partners willing to share their construction costs (a prospect he subsequently characterized as "very slim,").1 Second, TVA planned to set an internal cap on its total debt at a level $2 to $3 billion below the $30-billion limit imposed by the Congress.