Fortnightly Magazine - March 1 1996


jü( )l, n: A unit of energy measurement equal to a watt-second.

Union Electric Co. and the Electric Power Research Institute have teamed on a low-cost geothermal project that uses water from an abandoned lead mine to heat and cool the new Park City, MO, town hall. The mine's 70 billion gallons of water remain at 58°F year-round. In winter, well water goes through a heat exchanger, transferring heat from the mine water to a heat pump system, which converts the heat to warm air. In summer, the process is reversed.

Merger to Benefit LDC Gas Procurement Efforts

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) has permitted MidAmerican Energy Co. (em the corporate parent of recently merged Midwest Gas and Iowa-Illinois Electric and Gas Co. (em to include combined gas-procurement performance data as part of an experimental gas-supply incentive program originally designed for MidWest Gas alone. The IUB rejected a proposal to terminate the program and consider separate programs for the companies, finding an artificial separation of the performance data of the now-combined gas-supply departments unproductive.

Failed Muni Fight Shut Anchor's Door

Anchor Glass Container closed its Aberdeen, NJ, manufacturing plant on January 15, after a failed effort to municipalize the township's electric system. Anchor also closed its Houston, TX, plant the same day. Walter J. Schaffer, the company's energy director, says energy costs were one of the reasons for the Aberdeen closing, which left most of the 326 workers unemployed. He also admits that the fight with Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) (see, "Anchor Glass vs. JCP&L," PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY, 2/1/96) did little to strengthen Anchor's economic position.

Decoupling Charge to Expire

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has turned back a pre-merger attempt by Puget Sound Power and Light Co. to make permanent a $165.5-million rate increase allowed under its periodic rate adjustment mechanism (PRAM). (The PRAM is designed to remove disincentives to utility conservation efforts by "decoupling" revenues from sales levels and relying instead on a revenue-per-customer approach to cost recovery.) Puget had earlier agreed to defer a scheduled base-rate filing pending the UTC's review of its proposed merger with Washington Energy Co.

Real-time Pricing Proposed in Penn.

About 1,360 customers of Metropolitan Edison Co. (Met-Ed) and Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) may be buying power this month under a real-time pricing (RTP) plan (em if the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approves the utilities' proposal. Industrial and commercial customers with demand over 400 kilowatts (Kw) would agree to a historical load, or customer baseline load, for a year. Beyond that load, energy would be bought at hourly market rates.

Off Peak

Fee Simple? Utility Board Directors Get Less Than Peers

How do fees for utility board directors match up to those at other companies? Not too shabbily, as the following data show, but on the whole more modestly.

The Spencer Stuart SSBI Survey traced Board trends, based on proxy data, at 100 of the nation's leading publicly held corporations. The companion UI Survey focused on Board compensation at the 50 largest publicly owned utilities.

Moody's Finds Northeastern Utilities Under Pressure

A new report by Moody's Investors Service, Northeast Break-Even Analysis, finds that wide variations in the cost structures of investor-owned, municipal, and state electric utilities in the Northeastern United States will disadvantage the majority under deregulation in relation to their peers in contiguous regions. If full competition is introduced, Moody's concludes that the credit quality of Northeastern utilities with above-average costs would likely deteriorate because some investments are unrecoverable from ratepayers.

Tribe's Choice Causes Lawsuit

Madison Gas and Electric Co. (MGE) has filed a lawsuit in court and a complaint at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) against Wisconsin Power & Light Co. (WP&L), because WP&L will provide electricity to the Ho-Chunk Tribe's new bingo hall, located in MGE territory.

The 43-acre site does not currently receive service from either utility, but both have distribution infrastructure nearby.


With little fanfare, most aspects of the U.S. energy system seem to have settled into a fairly stable, predictable pattern. To my mind, we have reached an "energy plateau" likely to persist for maybe a decade or more into the future.

Energy is not now high on the radar screen of the general public, so there is little public pressure for significant change in the U.S. energy system.

Power Pundits Make Their Pitches

Two congressmen and a Clinton Administration official recently weighed in on the future of electric industry deregulation, giving observers an inkling of what they might expect in legislation or policy this year.

Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the ranking minority member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, spoke before the Electric Generation Association (EGA) January 22. Just three days later he introduced S. 1526.