News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 2000

News Digest

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State PUCs

Restructuring Plans. The Ohio PUC denied rehearing of its restructuring order for FirstEnergy issued two months earlier, rejecting arguments by all petitioners-utility, marketers, and consumer watchdog groups.

  • Net Metering. FirstEnergy had opposed requirements for net metering, saying that billing credits for customers who self-generate would allow them to bypass utility costs incurred to maintain wires capacity and acquire ancillary services, but the PUC was unmoved, noting that wires charges also include hidden subsidies because some wires capacity functions essentially as a generation backup.
  • Account Switching. Consumer watchdog Citizens Power (CP) complained that FirstEnergy would get credit against the state-mandated 20 percent switching target for customer accounts switched to its own marketing affiliate, but the PUC said that would not violate state law, and CP said it would appeal.
  • Shopping Credits. Enron, Exelon NewEnergy, and other retailers argued that the plan did not spell out how long consumers could keep shopping credits designed to encourage them to switch suppliers, but the PUC said the retailers were to blame for any ambiguity since they had signed off on it: "It is unusual for parties that have signed a stipulation to attack the PUC's adoption of that settlement as an unreasonable act." .

Electric Supply Choice. The Oregon PUC OK'd rules for electric retail choice, set to begin for industrial and large nonresidential customers on Oct. 1, 2001. The rules are broad, covering transition costs, unbundling, billing and metering, supplier certification, and consumer rights.

The PUC postponed action to set the value of generation resources, to inquire first if it has authority to use an arbiter. It also postponed action on public purpose programs, to allow its staff to study state law. .

Gas Price Fallout. Citing rising costs for natural gas and transportation, Avista Corp. on Aug. 15 asked the Idaho PUC for an overall natural gas rate increase of 29 percent, with residential customers getting a 27.75 percent hike. Gas Pipeline Capacity. The New York PSC kept in place last year's requirement that marketers serving natural gas customers in the state must have firm primary pipeline capacity from November through March to ensure gas delivery during the winter heating season, but it allowed KeySpan to "test" the idea of giving marketers a lesser option of using firm secondary capacity.

The PSC noted that KeySpan's exception would involve only a small volume of capacity- equivalent to about 1.7 percent of KeySpan's entire peak-day demand. The PSC added that KeySpan would retain enough reserve capacity to meet 15 percent of marketer needs, allowing it to supply its own capacity to "backstop" more than two-thirds of non-firm primary capacity used by marketers.

Access to Books and Records. Citing "increasing difficulty" in obtaining books and records from New York State Electric & Gas Corp., the New York PSC gave the utility just one day to respond to requests for basic accounting and financial data, such as journal entries, and told NYSEG to provide electronic access to data regarding the uniform system of accounts, but on a read-only basis, to protect confidentiality.