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.
A September 13 letter from the Governor reads: "The outage illustrates the need for indepth study of issues related to the reliable provision of power both at the state and regional level."
Jennings registered disappointment at the Governor's lack of confidence in the ACC's ability to deal with the issue: "Reliability of the electric system is of paramount importance whether or not the industry is restructured."
Jennings claims that Symington (em indicted June 13 on fraud and other charges (em tried to divert media attention from himself by accusing the ACC of overstepping its constitutional rights and moving too quickly to finalize rules on retail electric competition.
"I am concerned that the proposed rules go beyond ratemaking," the Governor's letter reads. Symington added that he doesn't believe it's responsible public policy for the ACC to consider a rule change without cooperation from the state's legislative and executive branches.