Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

Frontlines

When I took this job three years ago, I posed the question, "Price or Service?" in the title of my first frontlines column.I suggested that natural gas utilities appeared willing to sell on price, but not electrics. The CEOs all claim that electricity has become a commodity. But I'll bet the franchise that electric utilities haven't yet figured out whether they are selling electrons (a commodity) or comfort and peace of find (a niche service).

FERC Issues Certificates for Two New Gas Pipelines

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted two certificates for natural gas pipeline projects in the Southeastern U.S. One certificate went to Southern Natural Gas Co. for construction of a controversial pipeline to serve two municipal customers; a second was issued to Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. for the largest single expansion of its pipeline and storage system.

The FERC on May 28 voted 5-0 to grant a certificate to Southern Natural Gas Co. to construct approximately 118 miles of natural gas pipeline to serve two municipal customers.

People

Edison International elected former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to its board and its utility company's board, Southern California Edison. Christopher was elected chair of the executive committees of both boards. Howard P. Allen retired as chair and CEO.

John T. Coughlin, former Wisconsin Public Service commissioner, was elected chair of the PJM Interconnection L.L.C.

Former U.S. Department of State Legal Adviser Conrad K. Harper was elected to the board of both Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., and Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

FERC Easily Approves Second Convergence Combo

Marking the second time it had approved a union between an electric utility and a natural gas pipeline company since issuance of its December 1996 merger policy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the merger of Duke Power Co. with PanEnergy Corp.

In its 21-page order issued May 28, the FERC found the merger consistent with the public interest based on an examination of the effect it would have on rates, competition and regulation (Docket No. EC97-13-000).

Joules

ABB Systems Control sold an OASIS gateway system to Cinergy Corp. The system is configured to communicate with the ECAR OASIS node, handling TTC and ATC calculations, transmission service requests and other required transmission path information. Cinergy also bought an ABB enhanced interchange scheduling system, ISplus(.

Northern State Power Co.'s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Minneapolis, Minn. was expected to start up in July or August after a May 9 shutdown to correct a design problem.

In Brief...

Sound bites from state and federal regulators.

Appliance Repair Business. Responding to complaints from unregulated providers, New York rules that natural gas LDCs must run their appliance repair services through a separate subsidiary. PSC terms its existing policies "anachronistic" and finds that subsidies for appliance repair services are inappropriate. Case 93-G-0804, April 4, 1997 (N.Y.P.S.C.).

DSM Program Design. Michigan appeals court says state PSC exceeded authority and "impermissibly interfered with management decisions" of Detroit Edison Co.

Maine, Montana Consumers to Get Choice

The governors of Maine and Montana (em two states with very different electricity markets (em have signed three bills into law to allow competition in the electric and natural gas industries in their respective jurisdictions.

Maine. Gov. Angus King signed an electric restructuring bill that mandates competition in the state starting March 1, 2000.

The Maine law, An Act to Restructure the State's Electric Industry, L.D. 1804, was signed on May 29. It allows for recovery of stranded costs as determined by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

California Electric Restructuring Update

California regulators have issued a series of important rulings this spring as they continue to move forward with restructuring the state's electric utility industry.

On May 6, the California Public Utilities Commission accelerated the pace of its industry reform by ordering all electric utilities in the state to allow direct access to alternate electricity suppliers for all customers on Jan. 1, 1998.

Whither FERC?

With electric bills in Congress, and Moler bound for DOE, the Commission needs new vision.

Speaking in May at an informal press luncheon at the Washington International Energy Group in Washington, D.C., FERC Commissioner William L. Massey described the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's role in an open-access electric industry as "nourishing" competition.

V