Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1995

Perspective

Electric industry restructuring is progressing at a rapid pace. Across the country, states are moving ahead to encourage retail competition. Two states have allowed retail wheeling experiments (Michigan and New Hampshire), utilities are proposing them, and over 20 states are studying the issue. Back in Washington, Congress is examining legislation to amend the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA).

IXC Market Share a Trade Secret

The Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) has ruled that market-share data filed by telecommunications interexchange carriers (IXCs) in a case governing pricing for intrastate intraLATA toll calls fits the legal definition of a trade secret. As such, the data deserved ongoing protection from disclosure to the public. The PSC added that whether releasing the information might serve a useful purpose (em such as invigorating competition in the marketplace (em was not a valid factor in deciding whether information should be protected.

Know Thy Customer

Companies in competitive industries routinely collect information about their customers through a variety of sources (em including surveys, national census, and government and private sources. Such customer information and its applications are jealously guarded secrets, rarely shared with others in the industry. Customer information is not limited to expenditure on a company's products or services, but usually includes a customer profile.

Marketing & Competing

Current utility marketing efforts focus almost entirely on large customers or "key" accounts, responding reactively to competitive threats such as self-generation, municipalization, and even geographic relocation. These threats have become all too real for many utilities. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. has lost 15 percent of its large industrial load in the last 15 years. The recently negotiated long-term power contracts between Detroit Edison and the Big Three automakers are a conscious response to the looming threat of retail wheeling.

Wisconsin Downplays EMF Effects

While permitting Northern States Power Co. to build a new transmission line and associated facilities, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has ordered the utility to provide electromagnetic field (EMF) measurements along the line before and after the project is constructed. The PSC also ruled, however, that evidence in the case did not demonstrate whether "fear of EMF" would significantly affect property values adjacent to the transmission line right of way. Re Northern States Power Co., No. 4220-CE-143, Aug. 15, 1995 (Wis.P.S.C.).


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Learning from Waterloo: Computer Information Systems Will Carry the Day

Nathan Rothschild knew before anyone else that Napoleon would lose the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. With this advance knowledge he dumped his British-backed government securities on the market, making it appear as if he had heard the opposite outcome. His competing merchant bankers, following Rothschild's move, also sold their securities. After Rothschild saw the market bottom out, he repurchased every piece of paper he could lay his hands on (em at fire sale prices.

FERC OKs Resale Price Caps in Comparability Case

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conditionally approved an open-access transmission tariff that contains a price cap in the secondary market for Kansas City Power & Light Co. (KCPL), marking the second settlement of a comparability tariff filing (Docket Nos. ER94-1045-000 et al.).

LDC Must Study Externalities

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has accepted a settlement agreement calling for approval of gas-forecasting, supply-planning and demand-side management (DSM) efforts by Berkshire Gas Co., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC). Nevertheless, the DPU directed the LDC to undertake a good-faith effort to quantify avoidable environmental costs

and to incorporate those findings in rescreening its DSM options.

Pipeline Asks for Market-Based Rates

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has set for hearing a request by Koch Gateway Pipeline Co. (KGP) to charge market-based rates for firm and interruptible natural gas transportation services (Docket No. RP95-362-000). First, however, the FERC must conclude Docket No. RM95-6-000, which will delineate the circumstances under which it may approve market-based rates.