What will it take for broadband over power line (BPL) technology to take hold? Is BPL on track to become, as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) once contemplated, the “third broadband pipe into residential consumers’ homes, providing significant competition for cable and DSL service,” and an integral part of the 21st century “smart grid”?
Fortnightly Magazine - April 2006
The Baltimore Sun recently carried a very poignant letter from one of its local readers— a letter that utility executives might well take to heart. Appearing under the title, “Energy Advice Cruel to Poorer Readers,” the letter took offense at an article that trivialized the effect of the huge increase in local electric bills (35 to 72 percent) expected this July with the lifting of a long-standing retail rate freeze.
New Opportunities: Southern Nuclear Operating Co. announced that its board of directors elected Joseph (Buzz) Miller as senior vice president of nuclear development. Miller is currently the vice president of government relations for Southern Co.
To the Editor:
In “Rate-Base Cleansings: Rolling Over Ratepayers” (November 2005, p.58), Michael Majoros urges state public utility commissions to recognize a refundable regulatory liability for past charges to ratepayers for non-legal asset retirement costs.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, integrated resource planning (IRP) was a required practice for many utilities. Then competitive wholesale markets, merchant generation, and restructuring initiatives led many utilities to abandon IRP.
While wholesale competition generally has been successful, the regulatory process changes it brought were less so. And utilities now are getting back into long-term resource planning studies to provide decision support for their “back to basics” business strategies.
The stars would seem to be aligned for a renaissance of nuclear power in the United States. Fossil-fuel prices are historically high, political uncertainty plagues the Middle East, Russia, and other oil-producing regions, new reactor technology looks promising, and President Bush is promoting nuclear among the alternatives for electric power. Indeed, opinion polls suggest the public has an increasingly positive attitude towards nuclear power.
It seems history does repeat itself all too often. In the late1990s, a common complaint by utility CEOs was that utility price-to-earnings (P/E) multiples did not take into account whether a com- pany was a pure-play regulated utility, a diversified utility with a merchant subsidiary, or something else. Many say investors at the time just didn’t understand the different business models that were emerging after electric restructuring.
In its March 2005 report to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) repeated its request for enhanced civil penalty authority. When Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), it granted FERC all the authority that it had requested, and more. The new director of FERC’s Office of Market Oversight and Investigations (OMOI) called the new penalty authority “awesome.”1
The jurisdictional battle over authorizing rejection of wholesale power contracts continues.
The high stakes turf battle over whether FERC or the federal bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction over rejecting wholesale power contracts is now in its third round. Round one was fought in 2003 in the NRG bankruptcy case and ended in a settlement among the parties. Round two followed with the Mirant Chapter 11 case. Now punches and counterpunches are flying in round three: the Calpine bankruptcy.