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Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1996


Attorney Edward L. Flippen insists it "doesn't take an economist to figure out" what will happen to electricity prices in a restructured industry that provides for open access and retail wheeling ("Radical Restructuring? Not in My State," Perspective, August 1996, p. 11).

Forgoing an economist, Flippen predicts that electricity rates will reach a national equilibrium point substantially higher than rates currently prevailing in Virginia but below rates in California.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Economic Development Rates. Michigan rescinds existing guidelines for economic development rates in favor of "case-by-case" development and review. Case No. U-11065, July 16, 1996 (Mich.P.S.C.).

Least-cost Planning. Maine considers repeal of obsolete portions of its least-cost planning regulations for electric utilities. Dkt. No. 96-371, July 9, 1996 (Me.P.U.C.).

Gas System Acquisitions. Alabama allows Alabama Gas Corp. to buy municipal gas distribution system and include purchase price in rates. Dkt.


I am shocked that a respected and learned analyst of the utility industry like Charles Studness would espouse a position that stranded-cost recovery is somehow "un-American" ("Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Un-American," Financial News, July 15, 1996, p. 43).

Contrary to the claims of Mr. Studness, recovery of stranded cost is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Stranded Costs: Qualified Financing for Intangible Assets

A new law could help New York utilities reduce electric rates

and improve their balance sheets.

Legislation recommended by Gov. Pataki on June 1, 1996, seeks to provide the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) with a new financial tool to address possible stranded costs as the state moves toward a competitive retail electric market.


Charles Studness is not the type of person I would like to loan money to. I say this because if interest rates dropped in the future he would believe he was now entitled to borrow at the lower rates and not pay me what was owed.

In his latest diatribe against stranded-cost recovery ("Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Un-American," Financial News, July 15, 1996, p. 43), Studness tells us that recovery of stranded costs will keep Americans from purchasing electricity at the competitive price.

It certainly will; however, first all debts must be paid.

SDG&E to Try Adjustment Clause for Cost of Capital

Phillip S. Cross

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) to switch to an automatic adjustment mechanism to determine cost of capital (em a move that could save the utility approximately $100,000 per year in regulatory costs.


Chairman Miller's prediction that consumers and not producers will set future electricity prices is correct, assuming a competitive market. His observation (em that "states that move decisively to a competitive environment and that clear their decks of the debris of electricity companies' stranded costs as quickly as possible will be the winners" (em is equally correct. But estimates of stranded investments range from $20 to $500 billion. Who will pay to clear those "decks"?

Muni Can't Skim Cream in Annexed Area

Phillip S. Cross

The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that a municipal utility must serve all customers in new areas that it takes over by annexation (em not just a select few.

Moreover, the city must compensate the former supplier of utility services for any dedicated facilities, even if it uses its own municipal facilities to serve the new area. However, the city will owe compensation for lost profits only if the municipality fails to obtain the prior consent of the supplier or to pay for the cost of the associated facilities.


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in a report analyzing the July power outage in

14 Western states, notes that New England is "challenged" by the shutdown of 3,000 Mw of nuclear capacity in Connecticut. The mid-Atlantic will be likewise challenged over the coming years by delay in the construction of a 765,000-volt transmission line between West Virginia and Virginia.

UtiliCorp United amended an electric-supply contract with Public Service Co. of Colorado to reduce electric costs for 78,000 electric customers by as much as $1 million a year.

PUC to Hear Complaint by Customer's Employees

Phillip S. Cross

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has agreed to hear a complaint by employees of an industrial customer of Central Maine Power Co. (CMP). The employees allege unfavorable pricing actions against their employer, Yorktowne Paper Mills, including denial of service at the requested voltage. The complaint asks for reparations for prior overcharges.