Deregulate in haste; repent at leisure. That's what they say about love, marriage, and ratemaking. Yet, in the utility business the regrets are pouring in (em sometimes from the same people who sent out the invitations.
For example, at the end of November, a week before I put fingers to keyboard, the FERC was shocked to discover that the proposed Altus merger between The Washington Water Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co. would achieve no fuel savings related to integrated operations and central dispatch and, because of their geographic separation, the two companies "will be operated as two separate electric control areas and will not be jointly dispatched as a single integrated system." The FERC saw no other choice but to grant motions to intervene, put off immediate approval of the merger, and consolidate the proceedings for hearing and decision. (See, FERC Dkt. Nos. EC94-23-000, ER95-808-000, Nov. 29, 1995 (draft order).) The decision to wait assigned even greater importance to the campaign now underway by Commissioner Massey to push the idea of stricter merger approval guidelines at the FERC, in anticipation of open-access transmission as well as a predicted horizontal concentration in the electric industry (utilities, in Massey's words, would "combine to get ready for disaggregation"). Readers may want to return to our January 1 issue and reread the article, "Hurdling Ever Higher: A New Obstacle Course for Mergers at the FERC?," by attorneys John P. Mandt and Karl R. Moor, which takes issue with several of Massey's ideas.
Efficiency is the last bastion of the regulator.
A Long Courtship