Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1997

New York Aims for Flexible Rates

The New York Public Service Commission on Feb. 12 pushed toward competition by approving a multi-utility pilot program for electric retail access for commercial farms and food processors, and by allowing utilities to use their flexible-rate programs to compete against economic-development power offered by the New York Power Authority (Docket 97012/94EO385).

The Dairylea farming cooperative had asked the commission to approve a pilot open to commercial farms and food processors, except those that already have flexible rate contracts. The PSC agreed.

Ohio To Look at Emissions Trading in Fuel Clause Cases

The Ohio Pubic Utilities Commission has approved a series of amendments to its rules on fuel cost adjustments for electric utilities, implementing previously approved guidelines for the ratemaking treatment of emission allowance transaction activities.

In the earlier ruling, the commission had found that its Electric Fuel Component rate mechanism provides the most appropriate forum for review of emission allowance plans, transactions and recovery of associated costs.

Oklahoma Bills Would Revamp Agency, Allow Choice

Oklahoma State Senator Kevin Easley (D) has introduced two bills to the state Legislature. The first bill would introduce competition to the electric utility industry. The second bill would revamp the Oklahoma regulatory commission.

Senate Bill 500, the "Electric Restructuring Act," would allow some consumers to choose their electric suppliers by 1999. All consumers would be able to choose soon thereafter. The measure also calls for the Oklahoma Tax Commission to assess the impact of restructuring on state tax revenues and the feasibility of establishing a uniform consumption tax.

Idaho Utility Ends Capacity Payments to QFs

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has authorized Idaho Power Co. to stop paying a "capacity adder" to qualifying cogeneration facilities in addition to its own monthly variable energy cost as payment for nonfirm energy.

The adder, 3 mills per kilowatt-hour, originally was devised by the commission to compensate the QFs for the aggregate-system-capacity benefits provided by the QF suppliers. Nevertheless, due to lack of participation in the QF rate-schedule offering, little was provided to the utility in terms of reduction of capacity needs.

Censored PUC Report Raises Ire

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has refused to issue its 1996 report card of the state's electric, telephone, natural gas and water utilities. The reports usually are issued on an annual basis to little fanfare, but with the advent of varying degrees of competition, the commissioners have disagreed over the amount of performance information that should be released.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the controversy began when PUC Commissioner Robert Bloom wanted sections of the report removed that could cause discomfort to some utilities.

Gas DSM Programs Approved

The Florida Public Service Commission has approved a set of conservation programs proposed by Peoples Gas System Inc., the only natural gas local distribution company in the state required by law to offer such programs.

The LDC had recently updated its existing program evaluation data in conformance with new review criteria adopted by the commission in 1995. Checking each program for cost effectiveness, the commission permitted the LDC to use gas supply costs that were lower than those reflected in the company's purchased-gas adjustment rate.

University Fights Stranded-Cost Fee

Lawyers for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Feb. 4 argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court that their client should not be made to pay $6 million to Cambridge Electric Light Co. to cover stranded costs for building its own $50 million on-campus generating plant, as directed by the state utility commission. MIT said it would never have built the plant had it known about the fee. A ruling is expected in the spring.

States Expand Gas Transportation Programs

Regulators in Michigan and Florida have taken steps to expand programs for transportation of customer-owned gas.

In Michigan, the state public service commission will test the idea of expanding transportation service to residential and commercial users for two gas distribution utilities, plus allowing some aggregation to meet volume requirements. In Florida, the PSC will explore the idea of aggregating facilities owned by different customers.

Michigan. Tests in Michigan will involve Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. and Consumers Power Co.

Utilities Clash in Chicago

Wisconsin Electric Power Co., outbid about 60 companies to supply electricity to Chicago's Public Housing Authority, now served by Commonwealth Edison Co., which says it will refuse wheeling services. The housing authority says the deal with WEP would allow it to shave about $5 million off its $10-million, annual CE electric bill. The authority currently pays CE roughly 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, but would pay less than 3 cents per kWh to WEP, excluding wheeling charges. The dispute may well end up before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

IPPs Lose Bid To Supply N.J. Utility

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has approved a proposal by Jersey Central Power and Light Co., an electric utility, to meet its short-to-medium-term power needs by purchasing power from utility-owned generating facilities located in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Under the agreement, the utility will purchase a total of 700 megawatts of power over an eight-year period from Pennsylvania Power and Light Co., Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp.