Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1995

Texas Court Ruling Opens Door on Tax Cost Recovery

Texas Utilities Electric Co. and Gulf States Utilities are looking to an April 13 Texas Supreme Court decision (involving GTE-Southwest) that says the state PUC need not employ the actual taxes paid method in setting utility rates. Gulf States will now amend its appeal of a March 20 Texas PUC order forcing a $52.9-million rate reduction, which had included a $25.8-million actual taxes paid component. Texas Utilities had put its faith in legislative relief, but saw its hopes dashed in late April when a Texas state senate committee defeated a proposal to take up the matter.

Electric Utility Gas Supplies a Concern in Pennsylvania

To prevent a repeat of the energy emergency experienced in the state in January 1994, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ordered electric utilities to negotiate with their power pools, nonutility generators, and supplier utilities outside the state regarding fuel-supply reliability for plant identified as available to meet winter peak. The PUC suggested that the utilities revise rules that allow generation fueled solely by natural gas and delivered under interruptible transportation contracts to count as part of reserve capacity.

Va. Power Can Test Real-time, But Not on Site

The Virginia commission on April 20 authorized Virginia Electric and Power Co. (VP) to implement a five-year, experimental real-time pricing rate (RTP), but denied a proposal to custom-build dispersed generating facilities at customer sites.

The RTP will allow VP to set rates for large industrial customers (over 10,000 Kw) based in part on the actual hourly cost of generating electricity (Case No. PUE940080). The pilot program allows VP to experiment with market-based pricing by offering industrial users the opportunity to directly control their energy costs.

Ohio Allows Choice of Backup Gas Supply

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has modified its natural gas transportation guidelines to allow "human needs customers" the opportunity to select alternative suppliers of backup commodity supplies. The PUC found the change had sufficient merit to enact without experimental testing and that quick authorization was necessary to develop operational details and the necessary arrangements between customers and suppliers prior to the next heating season.

Niagara Mohawk Prepares for Battle

On May 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NMP) filed suit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), seeking relief from what it terms "mandated, above-market electricity purchases" from unregulated generators.

South Carolina Seeks Low-level Waste Relief

After losing its battle to punish North Carolina for not moving quickly enough to site a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility, Gov. David Beasley (R) of South Carolina has threatened to pull out of the Southeast Compact.

In April, Beasley had asked the Southeast Compact Commission for permission to reopen the Barnwell disposal facility to generators in every state except North Carolina.

Rate Base Adjustments Not Needed in Stable Economy

Citing a "relatively stable economy," the Utah Public Service Commission (PSC) has reaffirmed its preference for a historical test period in setting utility rates. It rejected a proposal by Mountain Fuel Supply Co., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to employ a projected test year in its current rate case. The LDC argued that the adjusted expense and revenue figures would better reflect customer growth as well as the effects of a newly established early retirement program.


John Huey (Fortune, Feb. 21, 1994) suggests that some corporate leaders resemble candidates running for office. Cynically, this conjures an image of the slick campaigner (em a blue suit, a thick head of hair, makeup artists, acting class, and speech coaches. Yet, Mr. Huey raises an issue that cannot be ignored. How can public utilities learn to communicate better?

I've worked as a communications director at a major investor-owned electric company.

Mass. Joins Electric Restructuring Craze

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), electric generation is no longer best organized as a monopoly. This conclusion has led the DPU to open an inquiry to investigate: 1) how restructuring the electric industry in the state would promote competition and benefit customers, and 2) whether to extend to some or all customers the option of choosing their own supplier of electricity. Re Electric Industry Restructuring, D.P.U. 95-30, Feb. 10, 1995 (Mass.D.P.U.).