Fortnightly Magazine - February 1 1997

LDC Would Act as "Marketer"

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved a proposal by Public Service Co. of North Carolina (the "LDC") to market gas supplies and unused pipeline capacity to large users through a joint venture between its own affiliate and a non-affiliated gas marketer.

The affiliate, PSNC Production Corporation, will own 50% of the new venture. The second venture partner is an unnamed, nonaffiliated marketing company that operates on a nationwide basis.

CILCO Introduces Competing Ideas For Illinois Choice

The Consumer Choice Partnership, backed by Central Illinois Light Co. (CILCO), has unveiled a set of "principles" to send to Illinois legislators in hopes of encouraging legislation to bring electric competition in Illinois as soon as possible, for all customer classes, with limited recovery of transition costs.

CILCO is the state's only major utility not to back a bill introduced last November (proposed by the Illinois Coalition for Responsible Electricity Choice) that would phase-in retail choice through 2005.

Commission Examines LDC Plan to Slash Industrial Rates

The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) has criticized a request by Shenandoah Gas Co. to require its residential and commercial customers to pay the lion's share of a newly approved rate increase, citing the utility's cost studies as "flawed" and its cost allocations as having compounded the error.

The company had argued that its cost studies showed that interruptible customers were already generating a 45 percent rate of return, while rates for its firm customers produced a negative return on the investment necessary to serve them.

California Puc Sets PG&E Transition Charge

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved an interim competitive transition charge (CTC) for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PGE), effective until the PUC adopts a permanent, industry-wide CTC.

PG&E would collect the charge (39 percent of the current bundled rate) from any customer existing its system before January 1, 1998, the start of electric competition in California.

PG&E spokesman Tony Ledwell said less than a dozen customers had indicated they would attempt to leave the PG&E system early.

Arkansas Examines Arkla Merger Plan

Finding no adverse consequences, but warning that the record was not yet complete, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has granted preliminary approval of a plan for the merger of Houston Industries, Inc., the holding company for Houston Lighting and Power Co., and NorAm Energy Corp., which provides natural gas distribution service in several states via three operating divisions, Arkla, Entex, and Minnegasco.

PSC Approval will remain conditional pending the outcome of related merger proceedings in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Minnesota, as well as before the Federal Energy Regulato

Massachusetts Utility Postpones Choice Plan

Commonwealth Electric Co. (CE) has postponed an electric retail pilot program for five industrial customers, fearing that market prices could run 5-percent higher than what the participants pay under regulation. Last summer, CE had predicted that program participants could save 15 percent off their electric bills.

CE and its consultant, Koch Energy Services Inc., attributed the jump in market prices to concern about possible power shortages follwing a shutdown of four nuclear power plants in New England.

SoCal Gas Adopts Monthly Pricing

Southern California Gas Co. (SCG) has begun using monthly forecasts to set prices for its core commercial and industrial natural gas customers, ending the practice of forecasting gas costs more than one year in advance and then computing the bill using a projected, annual weighted-average cost of gas (WACOG).

Monthly gas pricing is expected for residential customers when the California PUC reaches a decision in SCG's Biennial Cost Allocation Proceeding.

Futures, Swaps, Derivatives Escape Filing Requirement

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled that electricity futures contracts or other types of "derivatives" or risk management instruments (e.g., options, forward contracts, swaps, etc.) do not fall subject to certain state regulations that exact fees and require PUC approval for security issues by utilities.

It distinguished the two categories: risk management instruments aim to shelter utilities from losses, while security issues usually provide a source of funding. Utilities, it said, need not file a confidential copy of its risk management plan with the commission.