Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 1997

Perspective

We won't move to credit cards until our customers demand the option.

EVERY DAY, CUSTOMERS OF PUBLIC utilities ask the same question: "If I can buy my gasoline, grocery, medicines and all other necessities with plastic, then why can't I pay for my electricity, water, gas and telephone bills that way?"

Public utilities (em except long-distance telephone companies (em have yet to enter full-blown competition. When they do, utilities should decide whether to pursue the credit card option.

Michigan City Still Disputing Stranded Costs

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has moved closer to deciding the stranded cost dispute between Consumers Energy and the city of Alma, Mich., which intends to construct its own municipal electric system.

On Sept. 10, the FERC set for hearing two stranded cost issues: (1) whether Consumers Energy has met the "reasonable expectation" standard justifying stranded cost recovery from Alma; and (2) if so, what amount the utility may recover. (See, Docket No. sc97-4-000.)

Consumers Energy wants $56.1 million in stranded cost payments from Alma.

Sellers in Power Exchange Can Qualify as EWGS

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ruled that all electric power sales into the California power exchange are to be treated as wholesale power sales under Federal Power Act Sec. 201, and for the purpose of qualifying under the definition of "exempt wholesale generator," as defined in Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. (See, Docket No. el97-36-000.)

The September 10 ruling was made in response to a request by Southern California Edison, which plans to divest all its fossil-fueled electric generation plants.

Relicensing Settlement Moves to FERC

New England Power Co. has agreed with 17 parties, including government agencies and conservation groups, on the relicensing of the Fifteen Mile Falls hydroelectric project on the Connecticut River.

New England Electric System President and CEO John W. Rowe, Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vermont) and Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) signed the agreement.

The agreement governs requirements for a new, 40-year license for Fifteen Mile Falls, the largest conventional hydroelectric project in New England.

Gas Producers Must Refund Ad Valorem Tax

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered natural gas producers in Kansas to refund to customers approximately $500 million for erroneously adding the state's ad valorem tax onto interstate rates.

In its Sept. 10 ruling, the FERC said such taxes are not eligible for rate recovery under the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 and, following court directive, ordered the customer refund. (See, Docket Nos. rp97-369-000 et al.).

The refund covers gas produced from October 1983, when the petition challenging the add-on tax originally was filed at the FERC, until June 1988.

Electric Utility Must Offer Stand-by Service at Market Rates

The Missouri Public Service Commission has directed Kansas City Power & Light Co. to offer stand-by electric services to self-generation customers at market-based prices.

The rate design approved by the commission allows the utility to recover stranded costs that might otherwise be shifted to customers who continue to take bundled electric service on the utility's regulated distribution system.

The PSC approved a plan proposed by its staff that would require the utility to employ "real-time pricing" for the energy component.

Idaho Reviews Surcharge for Conversation Research

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has rejected a request by Idaho Power Co. to include a "public purpose charge" in ratepayer bills to fund its participation in the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

The utility said that the goal of the new organization is to transform existing energy markets to permit improvements in energy use efficiency without the need for long-term utility incentives.

The commission permitted the utility to capitalize and defer the costs of its investment in the organization until additional information is available.