Why am I not convinced that electric utilities really want to sell off their generating plants? A wires company--is that something to aspire to? Nobody likes to see wires strung every which way along the street. Isn't that why electric utilities call them telephone poles?
I hear utilities say that power production looks too risky. But is a wires-only strategy a retreat back into the womb of regulation?
If power companies expect rates for transmission and distribution to remain regulated, I'm a skeptic. One reason is what's happening with gas pipelines. In late April, Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. filed a stunning stipulation and multiyear global settlement offering to accept the full risk of future capacity turnback. Texas Eastern would cut gas transportation rates significantly for a long list of local distribution copanies: 17 percent in the first year for Bay State gas; 10 percent for Boston Gas; 16 percent for East Ohio Gas. That doesn't look like a regulated monopoly. (See, FERC Docket Nos. RP98-198-000, RP85-177-126, transmittal leter and exhibits filed April 28, 1998.)
A few weeks back, I received a CD-ROM from General Public Utilities offering a "virtual tour" of its steam, hydro and combustion turbine generating plants. They are all now for sale, along with some 18 other properties, including undeveloped sites (one larger than 1,300 acres) available for construction of new generating facilities. The "demo" CD gave a complete rundown for potential buyers on GPU's Titus plant, a 274-megawatt station (five units: 3 coal-fired steam turbines, two oil/gas combustion turbines), which sits on 33 acres.