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Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1996

Automated Meter Reading: Two Companies, Two Strategies

Rashida Syed

Automated Meter Reading:

Two Companies,

Two StrategiesThe question is whether to own or lease,

but each route offers its own advantages.

With deregulation nipping at their heels, utilities are looking for ways to gain and maintain

customers. Aggressive utilities are seeking new customers outside of their service territories and offering competitive prices, new products, and new services.

Financial News


SELECTED ENERGY STOCK PERFORMANCE: SECOND QUARTER 1996

SEPTEMBER 01, 1996

Alabama Begins LEC Rate REbalancing

Phillip S. Cross

The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) has implemented a rate rebalancing plan to coordinate the pricing of services provided by telecommunications local exchange carriers (LECs) with recent efforts to open the local market to competition. According to the PSC, existing LECs that support underpriced local service with excessive access charges are at a significant disadvantage when they enter a competitive, price-regulated environment.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Six weeks ago I wrote a column ("$70,000 an Hour," July 15, 1996, p. 4) about nuclear waste, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the billions of dollars paid in by electric utilities that lie stranded in the federal nuclear waste fund.

On July 23 a federal appeals court ruled that DOE must establish a repository and begin accepting high-level nuclear waste for storage, beginning January 31, 1998. (See, Indiana-Michigan Power Co. v. DOE, D.C. Cir.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Metering and Service Termination. Pennsylvania proposes two new meter-testing formats for LDCs: 1) a statistical sampling method that categorizes meters based on technology, design, manufacture, model, and operating characteristics; and 2) a variable interval approach that ties the retirement rate for a meter category to level of accuracy. Docket No. L-00960116, Mar. 28, 1996 (Pa.P.U.C.).

N.M. Rejects Tariffs for LDC Nonutility Services

Phillip S. Cross

The New Mexico Public Utility Commission (PUC) has rejected a request by PNM Gas Services, a division of Public Service Co. of New Mexico and a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to implement two new experimental "optional utility services": 1) a Food Service Maintenance Program (maintenance and repair on commercial equipment), and 2) an Energyguard Bill Payment Protection Plan (insurance).

People

Lisa S. Beal was hired by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America as environmental affairs director. She comes from the Hazardous Waste Management Association, where she was transportation/safety manager.

Commissioner Stan Wise was elected second v.p. of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Wise is vice chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

The City of Anaheim Public Utilities hired Dale Tarkington away from Arizona Public Service Co.

Michigan Reaffirms NYMEX Gas-pricing Mechanism

Phillip S. Cross

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has upheld a previous ruling finding it prudent for Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. to lock in a reasonable cost of gas through a series of gas-supply contract elections of alternative prices tied to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) gas futures market. The PSC commented on its earlier ruling, however, to clarify that its remarks on the relatively small effect of the pricing decisions on the overall cost of gas for the local distribution company (slightly more than 1 percent) did not constitute a new policy.

Rate Plan Emphasizes Incentives, Low-income Assistance

Phillip S. Cross

While approving a proposal by Marbel Energy Corp., owner of an independent gas and oil production business, to acquire Northeast Ohio Natural Gas Corp., a natural gas local distribution company (LDC), and Ohio Intrastate Gas transmission Co., an intrastate gas pipeline, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has directed both the LDC and the pipeline to offer nondiscriminatory open access to all of their service offerings. The PUC explained that the open-access condition would further competition in the state's natural gas industry.

Joules

Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. (CEI) customers will soon be able to earn "frequent flyer" points for using electricity or replacing gas appliances with electric ones. Under the program, planned for Spring 1997, customers receive one point for every kilowatt-hour they use each month. Points can be redeemed for electric appliances, such as night lights, air purifiers, and electric grills.

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