Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1996

PSC Scales Back Residential Subsidy

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has directed Consumers Power Co. to scale back any residential rate subsidies. The order appeared during a review of a proposed settlement in a series of applications to increase rates, revise depreciation methods, and offer discounts to industrial customers.

The PSC added, however, that the company should not try to eliminate the entire subsidy in a single step.

Boston Edison Proposes Real-Time Pilot

Boston Edison has proposed a unique pilot program that would allow 10 large customers to test hour-by-hour pricing. Although the one-year pilot is not a rate discount program, it would offer participants 10 percent off their demand charge (em in effect, a 4-percent discount. The pilot simulates a market price using a computer model that relays an hourly breakdown of costs to the customers. If the customers are able to respond and move their load around, they may save; if not, their electric bill may remain the same, or perhaps rise.

Yellow Pages Ruling Reversed

According to the Arizona Court of Appeals, the state Corporation Commission has violated an agreement with U S WEST Communications, Inc., governing the spinoff of the company's Yellow Pages publishing business as an unregulated enterprise.

The court agreed with U S WEST that the commission erred when it imputed $60.684 million in directory publishing profits to the carrier's regulated operations (em a move that had captured all profits earned by the publishing company above the rate of return of 11.4 percent authorized for regulated services.

Perspective

Ah, the wonders of competition! Out with waste, in with efficiency. The prospects are exciting. So why look back wistfully?

If there is anything more abhorrent than wife-beating and drug abuse, surely it must be monopoly. Monopoly is un-American: To the economist it represents the very state of original sin. To the courts it ranks with conspiracy. Monopoly promises economic waste, throttled production, obscene profits, and naked power (em all rolled into one. Consider what used to be called the "public utilities." In that sphere, regulated monopoly flourished for many years.

Rival Wins Gas Franchise in N.C.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has granted a final certificate to Frontier Utilities of North Carolina, Inc., to provide natural gas local distribution service to four previously unserved counties. It found Frontier's proposed rates reasonable when compared to alternate energy sources in the four-county area, though somewhat higher than those proposed by Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc., an established LDC that had also applied for the franchise.

Frontier is a new company formed specifically to serve the four counties.

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