Fortnightly Magazine - July 1 1995

Take No Prisoneers? A Price-War Strategy for Electric Utilities

In talking to electric utility managers from across the country we have found that most believe direct access will have major repercussions on all aspects of their business by the end of the decade. Not surprisingly, there is an emerging consensus that revenues will drop rapidly as supply options grow for retail customers.

FERC Orders Power Pools to Transmit

For the first time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has directed a power pool, the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) Power Pool, to provide electric transmission services to an electric utility, Duquesne Light Co. (Docket Nos. TX94-10-000 and TX94-8-000). It gave PJM 70 days to negotiate rates and terms with Duquesne, which had asked for transmission service to market excess capacity and energy. The FERC ordered the 11 members of the pool to negotiate jointly with Duquesne, and to charge comparable rates.

The Mega-NOPR

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Mega-NOPR1 covers four topics:

1) The FERC's jurisdictional powers to implement wholesale open access

2) The FERC's proposal for electric utilities to recover "legitimate and verifiable stranded costs" from departing wholesale customers (a small fraction of all stranded investment), and its belief that states should ensure recovery on retail bypass (the much larger share)

3) A range of measures to implement

WRTA First to get FERC Final Approval

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted final approval to the Western Regional Transmission Association (WRTA), making it the first regional transmission group (RTG) approved under the FERC's 1993 policy statement (Docket Nos. ER94-1288-003 and


WRTA had received conditional approval last October, but members were directed to provide comparable electric transmission service and file a single, regional transmission plan.

Electricity Transmission and Emerging Competition

Interesting times. Challenging times. Confusing times. The electricity industry and its regulators are now inextricably meshed in a tangle of interconnected reforms. With 50 states as laboratories, the process is accelerating. There is no going back. But which way is forward?

The old model of a closed system of vertically integrated electric utilities offering bundled service has been discarded in theory, and is being dismantled in practice.

FERC Oks $100M Hydro Settlement

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commmission (FERC) has approved a comprehensive settlement that issues a new license allowing the Seattle City Light Co. to continue operating the 689-megawatt Skagit River hydroelectric project. In exchange, the utility will spend $100 million on protecting and enhancing the natural and cultural resources around the plant (Project No. 553-005, Docket No. EL78-36-000).

NRC Amends Licensing Renewal Process

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has amended its regulations on nuclear plant license renewal to provide a "more stable and predictable regulatory process." The amended regulations will enhance the credibility of the NRC's existing regulatory oversight process and licensee maintenance programs by narrowing the number of systems, structures, and components that must be reviewed during the renewal process. Operating licenses are granted for periods up to 40 years, and may be renewed for 20 more if NRC requirements are met.

TVA's Crowell to Resist GAO Pressure

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chairman Craven Crowell says he will resist General Accounting Office (GAO) pressure to raise TVA rates. According to Crowell, a forthcoming GAO report criticizes TVA for not raising rates to reduce debt, and suggests privatization. "Everyone recognizes that TVA's debt is large, but the size of the debt is not as important as our ability to manage it," Crowell maintains, noting that a recent study by utility consulting firm Palmer Bellevue concludes that TVA can remain competitive by effectively managing the debt.