Fortnightly Magazine - March 2004

Perspective

Wisconsinites don't fear 'Day 2.' But let's get the grid rights right.

Perspective

Wisconsinites don't fear 'Day 2.' But let's get the grid rights right.

While working for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC), I have grown accustomed to the friendly advice frequently offered by regulatory colleagues and utility executives in higher-cost areas to the East.

Commission Watch

California anticipates changes in energy policy under its new governor.

Commission Watch

California anticipates changes in energy policy under its new governor.

The recall of California Gov. Gray Davis in November 2003 almost immediately led to speculation concerning possible changes in California's energy policy. Since his election, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has assembled an Energy Working Group, co-chaired by Professor James L.

Business & Money

Can economies of scale make the industry more stable?

Business & Money

Can economies of scale make the industry more stable?

The recent Northeast Blackout framed for regulators and public policy-makers one of the central issues confronting the utility industry: infrastructure reliability and the significant capital investment requirements necessary for improvement. While estimates vary widely, some industry experts currently project that the investment necessary to revitalize and secure the transmission infrastructure in the United States may run in excess of $100 billion.

Technology Corridor

A digital grid to the home, secured via a local fiber-optic network, could position utilities to fix power and telecom together.

Technology Corridor

A digital grid to the home, secured via a local fiber-optic network, could position utilities to fix power and telecom together.

Before billions are spent building new transmission lines to ensure reliable electric service, North American electric utilities should evaluate whether the alternatives-controlling demand and fostering distributed generation-might be more cost-effective and broadly beneficial.

Back to the Ratebase

BYLINE

BYLINE

As a former independent power producer, George Lagassa is sympathetic to the woes of the merchant power industry. Until just a few years ago, he held the license to a micro-hydro qualifying facility (QF) in New Hampshire, so he understands what it takes to compete in a regulated-franchise industry. Yet, as the principal of Mainstream Appraisals in North Hampton, N.H., Lagassa is also a dedicated pragmatist. He sees the industry's consolidation trend as a sort of correction in the U.S. power market.

Capital Reserve Margins: Hardly Adequate

A pseudonymous executive tells why the CCRO's recommendations don't pass muster.

A pseudonymous executive tells why the CCRO's recommendations don't pass muster.

The latest splash from the Committee of Chief Risk Officers1 (CCRO)-a new white paper regarding capital adequacy for energy companies2-makes barely a ripple. While an improvement over the CCRO's previous efforts,3 the capital adequacy recommendations do not provide adequate standards that can be implemented consistently by energy companies.

Pricing Power in Whosesale Markets: A Risky Business

A Risky Business Utilities wrestle with how much to charge for their product.

A Risky Business Utilities wrestle with how much to charge for their product.

The trading model has many good points, including the imposition of market discipline upon both transfer prices and prices to external third parties. Trading also encourages the use of resources and capital at their market value and the cultivation of specialized skills within different business units. But applying the model, particularly to the risks of power pricing, continues to be a challenge.

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.

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