Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1996

Courts May Interpret Transmission Rights

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has declined jurisdiction in a dispute between Montana Power Co. and Puget Sound Power & Light Co. over a firm purchased-power contract and the seller's obligation to exert "best efforts" to secure necessary firm contractual rights to transmission service to complete the firm power transaction. The FERC prefers that the matter be heard in the federal district court in Montana, where related litigation is already pending.

Trends

Curbing Market Power:

The Larger, the Better

In recent years, increased competition and the threat of deregulation have spurred numerous mergers and acquisitions. Fourteen mergers have been completed by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) over the last five years; seven more have been announced. If all of these mergers receive approval, nearly 20 percent of the IOUs that existed in 1990 will no longer exist.

Niagara Mohawk Fights Gas Import Tax

Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NiMo) has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule that a New York state law violates the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) by requiring ratepayers, in effect, to reimburse gas-fired QFs (qualifying facilities) for payments made under a state-imposed, 4.25-percent natural gas import tax.

NiMo says that the tax and the reimbursement mandate will add $7.2 million to the electric bills of its customers in 1996 (em a figure that could climb to $13.5 million by 2006.

Joules

CMS Generation Co., a unit of CMS Energy Corp., has begun operating the 35-Mw, waste-wood-fueled, independent Genesee Power Station near Flint, MI. CMS Generation will sell the electricity to Consumers Power Co. under a long-term contract. Half the plant is owned by CMS, half by Black & Veatch Development Corp. and Genesee Power Co.

Another unit of CMS Energy, CMS Gas and Electric Marketing, has signed an agreement with Marine Coal Sales Co. of Indianapolis, IN, to market electricity, coal, and natural gas in the east central United States.

Financial News

New England Electric System (NEES) and the majority leaders of both houses of the Rhode Island Legislature have proposed legislation that would restructure the state's electric utility industry. The legislation provides for full recovery of all stranded costs, and phases in open access for all retail customers by January 2001. Although customer choice would come about relatively quickly, rates would not decline much in the near term because a transition charge shields NEES from most of the restructuring risk.

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