Fortnightly Magazine - March 2004

Retail Risk-Based Pricing

A new approach to rate design.

A new approach to rate design.

As energy markets have evolved in the late 1990s away from cost-based transactions to competitive market-based transactions, the exposure to market risks for the variable cost of supply has substantially increased.1 Reflected in these market risks are the diminishing reserves for North American gas supply, which has created conditions of extreme volatility in gas supply. The added market risk is compounded by the sensitivity of some retail load customers to weather conditions.

The Road Not Taken

Revisiting performance-based rates with endogenous market designs.

Revisiting performance-based rates with endogenous market designs.

More than 20 years ago in the pages of this publication, economist William Baumol outlined a method by which the regulation of public utility monopolies could be streamlined while simultaneously providing incentives for efficiency and productivity growth.1 Baumol proposed a productivity incentive clause that adjusts rates automatically according to the formula,

The Reliability Spending Conundrum

What is the right and prudent level of spending on service?

What is the right and prudent level of spending on service?

Times have changed for electric utilities. The combination of deregulation, mergers, major storms, and widespread outages has shifted the industry's emphasis to reliability. That wasn't always true. Even 20 years ago, the growth of load was adding so much to ratebases and driving such large rate increases that regulators spent a lot of time reviewing plans for capacity additions-and challenging utilities for over-spending.

NERC's Cloudy Crystal Ball

How much confidence do NERC demand forecasts warrant?

How much confidence do NERC demand forecasts warrant?

Independent consultants must properly estimate peak demand growth if they are to provide clients with reasonable market analysis. Some consultants defer to the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) on this matter because NERC bases its projections on utility-specific estimates developed with more information than consultants typically can access. NERC recently rolled out new demand growth forecasts, so the time seems right to explore whether this confidence is justified or misplaced.

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