Fortnightly Magazine - December 1996

Mailbag

Un-American Activities

I would like to comment on Joseph Paquette's letter ("Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Constitutional," Mailbag, Oct. 1, 1996) responding to Charles Studness (Stranded-cost Recovery: It's Un-American," Financial News, July 15, 1996, p. 43).

Mr. Paquette suggests that denying recovery of stranded costs amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property.

Wisconsin Issues ISO Rules

Finding an independent system operator (ISO) prerequisite to electric industry restructuring, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued a detailed set of "minimum standards" for developing and operating an ISO.

The PSC says that the ISO must function independently of generators and must operate the transmission system to protect consumers and sellers of power from anticompetitive use of the wires. In addition, the ultimate responsibility for safety and reliability must be vested in one entity at all times.

Joules

American International Partners, L.C. will conduct a feasibility study for a 100-Mw, coal-fired power plant in the northern border region of Vietnam. The proposed project is estimated at $150 million, which includes expansion of a coal mine on the site and development of a limestone mine. The project would be developed jointly with The Vietnam National Coal Corp. The two companies have signed a letter of intent to develop a second plant in the Bac Thai province, 70 kilometers from Hanoi.

CalEnergy Co., Inc.

Michigan Rejects LDC Capacity - Release Sharing

The Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) has rejected a proposal by Michigan Gas Utilities, a local distribution company (LDC), to implement a 70/30 sharing mechanism for capacity-release revenue. (The LDC currently credits all such revenues to its customers through a gas-cost recovery mechanism.)

The PSC found the LDC's incentive plan lacking in safeguards to ensure that the company does not earn a windfall profit at the expense of ratepayers.

Energy/Telecom Combo Hits Boston

Boston Edison Co. (BE) and RCN Inc., a subsidiary of C-TEC Corp., have announced what they say is the "most comprehensive agreement in the nation" between an electric utility and a broadband network company to provide one-stop shopping for energy and telecommunications services.

The two companies have signed an agreement to form a joint venture to provide local- and long-distance telephone service, video, high-speed internet access, and eventually, energy-management and property-monitoring services.

Gas LDC to Unbundle

While authorizing Northern Utilities, Inc., the sole instate natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to contract with an affiliated company to provide storage capacity and services, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has directed the utility to file an unbundling tariff proposal that includes transportation, load-balancing, and third-party merchant services.

Under the approved supply arrangement, Granite State Gas Transmission, Inc. will provide storage capacity and service from a liquefied natural gas facility in Wells, ME.

GA PSC OKs Discount Contract

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved its first negotiated contract for discounted electric rates under an economic development incentive plan adopted in 1994.

Georgia Power Co. filed the contract in May after Olin Corp. announced it would relocate 100 manufacturing jobs to Tennessee unless the company could negotiate power rates.

Mass. Pins Telco Competition to TSLRIC

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has decided to use separate cost methods 1) to determine whether a local telephone service is subsidized, and to set price floors for essential monopoly services provided by NYNEX, a local exchange carrier (LEC); and 2) to set rates and price floors for competitive services.

According to the DPU, Total Service Long Run Incremental Cost (TSLRIC) was undisputed as the proper method of testing for subsidies between services.

Gov./ACC Squabble Over Arizona's Restructuring

Utilities in the Western Systems Coordinating Council, especially those in Arizona, found out last summer what it's like when 600,000 consumers lose power. This event, however, was just a warmup for the fireworks that followed and then promptly fizzled.

The outage prompted a series of highly publicized letters between Arizona's Republican Gov. Fife Symington and Renz Jennings, the Democratic chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), which has been investigating retail electric competition since 1994.

Idaho Reforms QF Rules

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has modified the method electric utilities must use to conduct avoided-cost negotiations with qualifying cogeneration facilities (QFs). A new interim standard for large QF projects (greater than 1 megawatt) calculates avoided costs based not on displaced purchases from a single, hypothetical power plant, but on information in the utility's resource plan.