Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1996

Orange & Rockland Asks for Choice

Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. (O&R) has asked the New York

Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve a rate settlement that includes a proposal for a retail wheeling pilot program, "PowerPick" (Case 95-E-0491).

PowerPick would allow certain large industrial customers to choose their electric suppliers starting June 1, 1996. All other customer classes would be eligible to participate as of January 1, 1997; however, residential participation will be capped at 1,500 customers.

Wellhead Prices Drop; Electric Growth Slows

The Energy Information Administration has released its second-quarter Short-Term Energy Outlook projections. Some of its predictions for gas and electric markets:

s Normal temperatures and continued economic growth will raise total annual gas demand in 1996 to a high of 21.9 trillion cubic feet. In 1997, demand is expected to rise 2.7 percent, to 22.5 trillion cubic feet.

PUC Uphelds Selective Rate Discounting

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has declined as a general policy to require electric utilities that award a rate discount to an individual customer to offer the same discount to the customer's competitors.

The case involved Central Maine Power Co., which had negotiated a discount with Southern Container Corp. under its alternative rate plan. Union Camp Corp., a competitor in the corrugated box business, had then asked for a comparable discount, complaining of discrimination.

Calif. Telcos Seeking Compensation

Administrative law judge Barbara Hale has recommended that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reject requests from Pacific Bell and GTE California for billions of dollars in compensation for financial losses expected from local telephone competition (Docket R95-04-043). Pacific Bell is seeking $3.7 billion over five years; GTE is asking for about $500 million.

Michigan Sidesteps Wheeling Injury

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC), facing questions on how fast it will move on retail wheeling and direct access, has suspended scheduled hearings on a request by MasoTech Forming Technologies, Inc. to set up a "cost-based, fair, and competitive" electric transportation rate.

MasoTech, a customer of Detroit Edison Co., had asked the PSC how and when it intended to implement recommendations concerning direct access offered by the Michigan Jobs Commission and transmitted to the PSC earlier this year by Gov. John Engler.

Wisconsin Gas Wants Some Competition

Wisconsin Gas Co. has asked the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to approve "GasAdvantage," a pilot that would allow competitors to supply natural gas to 1,000 residential and 1,200 commercial customers starting November 1. Participating customers would have from August 1 to October 15 to choose a specific marketer to serve them for a one-year period. Wisconsin Gas will continue to transport the gas, but customers will be billed by the marketer. Wisconsin Gas proposes to develop standards of business conduct to screen potential marketers.

Electric's Telecom Project Draws Complaint

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has denied attempts by MicroNet, a microwave telecommunications firm, to head off possible competition from Jersey Central Power and Light Co., which planned to upgrade its existing two-way radio communications systems by installing antennas and microwave dishes on new and existing towers spread across the state.

MicroNet had claimed the upgrades would create excess capacity and questioned the possibility of ratepayer subsidies.

Nuclear Plants Get High Marks

The Nuclear Energy Institute reports that nuclear power plants are exceeding performance goals for safety and reliability. In 1995, the U.S. nuclear industry:

s Achieved the highest capability factor ever: a median value of 82.6 percent. (Unit capability is a percentage of the most electricity a plant can produce, limited by plant management.)

s Reduced unplanned automatic shutdowns or scrams by almost 90 percent since 1980.

s Met safety performance in 94 percent of the systems.