Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1997

Western Resources Wins Fight for KCPL

After months of trying, which included the derailment by Western Resources of the proposed merger of UtiliCorp United and Kansas City Power & Light Co., the boards of directors of Western Resources and Kansas City P&L have approved a merger of the two companies in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $2 billion. If approved by the necessary regulatory authorities, the new company would have $9.5 billion in assets, $3 billion in annual revenues and more than 8,000 MW of electric generation.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators. Gas Load Building. Finding no protest from electric utilities, North Carolina waives requirements for preliminary cost-benefit analysis and approves incentive programs for Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc., designed to boots gas load by installing commercial gas cooking equipment at community colleges for use in culinary degree programs. Commission tells company to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis as soon as it can gather the necessary data from actual operating experience. Docket No. G-9, Sub 377, Jan. 31, 1997 (N.C.U.C.).

Carolinas Move Toward Restructuring

North Carolina and South Carolina, both relatively low-cost power states, recently have made moves toward competition. In North Carolina, bills calling for the formation of a study commission to examine the introduction of electric supplier choice in that state were introduced in the House (H.B. 12) and Senate (S.B. 38). The intent to introduce choice has prompted the North Carolina Coalition for Customer Choice in Electricity to call on legislators to develop a report by April 1998, in time for a bill to be considered by the General Assembly that same year.

LDC Fails in Bid To Recover Coal Tar Cleanup Costs

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling by state regulators denying permission to Indiana Gas Co. to recover costs associated with the cleanup of environmental contamination at former gas manufacturing sites.

The court could find no direct connection between coal tar cleanup and the current provision of gas distribution service, which it described as a necessary condition for cost recovery, even if the property is currently in use by the utility.

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.