Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 1996

Maryland Gas Pilot Offers Choice

Columbia Gas of Maryland (CGM), a subsidiary of The Columbia Gas System, Inc., has asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to approve its "Customer Choice Pilot Program," which would allow 10,000 residential customers to choose their natural gas supplier.

The proposed two-year pilot would begin November 1, and any gas purchased from another supplier would be exempt from the state's 2-percent gross receipts tax. "Our large industrial and commercial gas users have been able to choose their natural gas suppliers for many years," says Gary J.

Florida Weighs in on Customer Preference

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) failed to properly factor in "customer preference" when resolving a territorial dispute between two electric utilities, Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative and Gulf Power Co. The PSC had ruled that Gulf Power should serve a new correctional facility that the state was planning to locate in West Florida, even though Gulf Coast had participated in the site-selection process and was favored by county and state authorities.

Nevada Takes First Competitive Step

The Nevada Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved an interim order and report finding that competition in the electric industry could benefit the state if the legislature chooses to authorize retail competition.

The PSC said that its investigations revealed no indications that retail competition would impair reliability, violate expectations of utility shareholders, harm customers, reduce tax revenues, or set back the state's economic goals.

New Jersey Upholds LEC Price-cap Plan

The Superior Court of New Jersey has upheld a state regulatory decision authorizing Bell Atlantic-New Jersey, Inc., a local exchange carrier (LEC), to switch from traditional regulation to a new price-cap plan. The new plan sets rates for noncompetitive LEC services by offsetting the annual inflation factor by a separate factor for cost savings due to productivity gains. For its part, the LEC agreed to accelerate deployment of new technologies, including a fiber-optic telecommunications network for the state. See, Re New Jersey Bell Telephone Co., 143 PUR4th 297 (N.J.B.R.C.

Calif. Power Authority Rejects Exit Fee

The Eastside Power Authority (em composed of four California irrigation districts, one municipal utility, and two water districts (em plans to leave Southern California Edison's (SCE's) electric distribution system and serve its own members' water-pumping load. Eastside says it will build its own electric distribution system adjacent to SCE's, and interconnect with the system owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

JCP&L to Help QF Switch to EWG

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has approved Jersey Central Power and Light Co.'s offer to help a local qualifying cogeneration facility (QF) switch its status to that of an exempt wholesale generator (EWG). The QF, NRG Generating (U.S.), Inc., a subsidiary of Northern States Power Co., seeks the change in classification due to concerns about potential future reductions in the need for steam at its host industrial facility owned by Du Pont de Nemours and Co.

"Secret" Rates at Issue in Ohio

The Ohio Steel Commission is urging the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to refuse confidential treatment to discounted rate agreements between electric companies and their customers, arguing that such treatment denies energy users access to information that would help them negotiate competitive rates. The 16-member Steel Commission's request responds to the PUC's decision to keep the terms of a contract between Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and American Steel & Wire Corp.

Ohio Power to Recover Emission Allowance Brokerage Fees

While setting fuel-cost, adjustment-clause rates for Ohio Power Co., a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co., Inc. (AEP), the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled that the utility may include emissions-allowance-trading brokerage fees as an expense in determining its new electric fuel-component rate. The PUC found the brokerage fees "directly and justifiably related" to the sale of emission allowances, hence qualified for recovery under adjustment-clause regulations.


In telecommunications, regulators turn increasingly to the nebulous term known as "cost-based" to set pricing policy. An example is the new Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Act), whose pricing standards for interconnection and network element charges stipulate that the just and reasonable rate for the interconnection of facilities and equipment should be "based on the cost ...

Minn. Approves Incentive Gas-purchasing Plan

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a performance-based gas-purchasing plan for Minnegasco, a natural gas local distribution company (LDC).

The incentive plan contains two benchmarks for measuring the utility's gas-purchasing performance: 1) a market-based benchmark with demand and commodity components, and 2) a comparison benchmark consisting of a volume-weighted, average, total annual gas cost per million British thermal units for the state's three largest LDCs (after Minnegasco itself).