Fortnightly Magazine - February 1 1996

MCI to Provide Local Telephone Service

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (URC) has authorized MCI Telecommunications Corp., an interexchange carrier, to provide certain local business telephone services in the Indianapolis area on a two-year trial basis. These services (em which MCI will resell under an agreement with Hancock Rural Telephone Corp., a local exchange carrier (LEC) (em were previously offered exclusively by either Hancock or Ameritech Indiana, another LEC serving the Indianapolis area. The trial program is the result of a settlement agreement between MCI and Hancock.

San Francisco Examines Competitive Options

The City of San Francisco has retained Strategic Energy Ltd. (SEL) to study whether the municipality should expand its own utility. "We will evaluate whether it makes sense for the citizens of San Francisco to break from Pacific Gas & Electric and expand their own electric utility," said SEL president Richard Zomnir.

N.J. Requires LDC to Offer Capacity Release

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has approved a two-year capacity-release program for Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G), a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), as part of an ongoing effort to unbundle gas services. Other LDCs in the state have already incorporated capacity-release programs, but PSE&G argued that it was without surplus year-round pipeline capacity. The LDC said gas marketers should obtain their own capacity at lower rates through either long-term contracts with the pipelines or through capacity release from other parties.

Entergy to Buy Australian Utility

It looks like PacifiCorp will have a little competition down under. A $1.2-billion conditional bid for an Australian electric utility (em made by an Entergy subsidiary, Entergy Power Group (em has been accepted by the State of Victoria.

Utah Approves Sharing of Capacity-release Revenues

The Utah Public Service Commission (PSC) has authorized Mountain Fuel Supply Co., an LDC, to increase rates by $3.7 million. The LDC will collect the revenue deficiency by assessing a fee of $12.00 per month for 12 months on new residential premises. The charge is designed to recover increased capital and operating costs due to new customer growth in the LDC's service territory. The new rule permits the LDC to record 20 percent of the credits as distribution nongas revenues, while passing the remaining 80 percent back to ratepayers through its fuel-cost adjustment clause.

Calif. Schools Buy from Energy One

A division of UtiliCorp United has entered into an agreement to provide heating and cooling services to 170 public school districts in southern California. The UtiliCorp marketing branch, Broad Street/Energy One, will supply natural gas at prices below that of the local utility. The participating school districts spend about $12 million a year for natural gas to heat and cool their school buildings. "This is a unique contract because it shows quite dramatically how everyone can benefit from deregulation," said Brooks Burton, Energy One vice president.

N.C. Approves Heat Pump R&D

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has authorized Duke Power Co. to implement a research and demonstration pilot project on residential geothermal heat-pump systems. The program is designed to overcome existing market barriers and will target new home builders with incentives of up to $3,500 per system to offset installation costs. According to Duke Power, program costs could be recovered from customers in future rate proceedings because participation will result in the installation of energy equipment that exceeds federal appliance efficiency standards.

IBM, NIPSCO Increase Productivity

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) and IBM have developed the Integrity/Customer Services System, which provides any customer service with one telephone call. Customer questions that previously required several transfers will now be handled by a single representative who has access to billing, service, and repair information. Property owners with several buildings or several tenants at one building will receive a combined bill, rather than separate bills for each meter.

Utilities to Monitor Cellular Radiation

Scientific studies have not indicated any

"obvious relationship" between prolonged lower-level radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure and increased disease in humans, according to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC's investigation into electromagnetic fields (EMF) and RF radiation at cellular radio telephone facilities found cellular power densities consistently below current industry exposure standards.

AEP Consolidates Nuclear Employees

American Electric Power Co. (AEP) plans to consolidate its Columbus, OH, nuclear generation management and support staff with the nuclear staff at its Donald C. Cook plant in Bridgman, MI. The relocation, scheduled for summer 1996, affects about 250 employees. About 50 positions

will be cut. Total employees in the AEP nuclear

organization will be reduced from about 1,300 to about 1,180, a 9.2-percent cut.