Frontlines & Op-Ed

Frontlines

Presenting a new look and new editorial content for 2003.

Fortnightly: A New Frontier

Presenting a new look and new editorial content for 2003.

In this Jan. 1, 2003, issue, Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine takes pause in this column from its energy industry commentary to tell readers about several important developments at the magazine.

Back to the Drawing Board

Executive and academic views on what to fix and what's not broke.

The sound and fury over trading scandals, credit defaults, and market manipulation so far has drowned out much of the mind-numbing debate over a standard market design (SMD), and rightly so. Utilities understand (as does the press) that Enron, "Deathstar," and "Get Shorty" will always sell more newspapers than locational pricing or congestion management.

Fashionably Retro

Why rate base is back in style.

It's no surprise that traditional utilities are now fashionable with Wall Street. With merchant generation and energy trading gone bust, bankers, analysts, and fund managers at the 37th Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference, held last month in Palm Springs, Calif., were falling over themselves to find those regulated gems overlooked during the energy merchant boom years.

Absolute Power

Reviewing FERC's omnipotence over markets.

Reviewing FERC's omnipotence over markets: Market players like Calpine say standard market design (SMD) and RTO issues "while laudable and important objectives … will do little to enhance wholesale competition if contract sanctity is not assured."

Flashpoint Congress

This year, or next, legislators will close in on a national energy bill.

This year, or next, legislators will close in on a national energy bill. Some agreement already looks promising for several industry flashpoints.

The Fourth Wave

Are banks better at trading power than utilities?

Bank of America's recent request to FERC to be allowed to trade power was yet one more reminder that a whole new class of companies are quietly positioning themselves to dominate what's left of the energy trading space after the departure of traders like Enron and Aquila.

Grading Pat Wood

Reviewing the FERC chairman's first year, and what he might do next.

This September, Pat Wood III completed his first year as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Some long-time FERC watchers gave Fortnightly some insights into how this chairman has performed so far, and what we might expect from him in the future.

The Empire Strikes Back

Will FERC's market solution wipe out state commissions?

One might say, when it comes to FERC, some state public utilities commissions' lack of faith is disturbing—to paraphrase Lord Vader. It's also necessary, as any journalist would tell you. The FERC NOPR on standard market design (SMD)—which completes the "trilogy" of regulation on wholesale markets, as chairman Pat Wood described it—had some state PUCs blasting the NOPR even before its July 31 release.

An Open Checkbook

Why grid owners don't like FERC's new rules on gen interconnection.

A year ago, when a group of electric utilities in the Southwest signed off on deals to hook up new generators in Arizona with an innovative "common bus" treatment for two adjoining switchyards at the Palo Verde hub, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was quick to heap on the praise. "Attaboy," said FERC's Pat Wood, at the commission's meeting of July 25, 2001. Nevertheless, over the past twelve months, FERC twice has proposed new rules to govern the way in which new power plants gain the right to interconnect with the interstate transmission grid. These new rules on gen interconnection form an essential part of the puzzle more aptly known as the standard market design (SMD).

Collateral Damage

Credit ratings agencies put the squeeze on merchant power.

Have they gone too far? Have ratings agencies become overzealous in their efforts to rein in energy merchants? Many in the industry are coming to that belief after Aquila, one of the industry's most respected companies and leaders, announced it would exit the merchant energy trading sector in late July. It said it could no longer meet the credit requirements imposed by ratings agencies to maintain that business.