TO DATE, RETAIL NATURAL GAS UNBUNDLING HAS proven to be only marginally successful. In political terms, state legislators and utility commissioners can point to significant progress in passing initiatives to mandate local utility unbundling. Many utilities have developed and won approval of new rate structures that enable small industrial, commercial and even residential customers to purchase natural gas from non-utility suppliers.
Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 1998
FOR YEARS NOW ARGUMENTS ABOUT WHETHER RETAIL electric competition would benefit consumers and would serve the public interest have raged. Often saying there is little to be gained from competition and many dangers, powerful voices have urged opposition to competition or a glacial schedule for implementation of customers choice.
The Pennsylvania electric restructuring cases, however, should help end the arguments about the benefits of retail electric competition.
ENERGY SERVICE PROVIDERS ARE LISTED BY THE DOZENS on public utility commission Web sites, often with direct links to the companies themselves. Even so, picking out 10 to watch for their commercial and industrial activity isn't an easy task.
There's no reliable volume data. There's no organization rating the services each of these vendors offers. The ESPs themselves are either reticent about disclosing data or overly boastful. There's no ready apples-to-apples comparison of ESPs available for prospective C&I customers. Still, who is who among ESPs is a legitimate question.
No one has yet explained why the electric industry needs independent system operators to manage the transmission grid and a private institution to do essentially the same thing.
That question remains unanswered even now that the North American Electric Reliability Council has released its draft legislation showing how it would recreate itself as NAERO, a self-regulating electric reliability organization insulated from antitrust scrutiny by governmental oversight.
"Reliability does not exist in a vacuum," noted P.R.H. Landrieu, v.p.
Darwin Subart was named assistant vice president, business development, of Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co., a subsidiary of MDU Resources Group Inc. Subart has served as the company's business development director since 1994.
Curt L. Meyer joined Peregrine Communications, a fiber-optic network provider, as a regional account manager. Most recently Meyer worked for Strom Engineering.
CMS Energy Corp. elected Kenneth L. Way to its board of directors. Way is chairman and CEO of Lear Corp. Way's election brings membership of the board to 11 directors.
FORCING A DIVESTITURE SHOULD REMAIN AN OPTION for regulators in a clear case of market power abuse, NARUC members have agreed.
NARUC's executive committee also has opened discussion on a five-year business plan that would increase the association's visibility, improve its technology and make better use of the $10 million it has in reserves.
Members at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners summer meetings in Seattle, Wash., asked states to give them "clear and adequate authority" to protect consumers from market power.
GAS PIPELINES. Noting a move toward shorter-term contracts since Order 636, the FERC on July 29 issued an "integrated package" of reform proposals for the natural gas pipeline industry: (1) specific measures in a notice of proposed rulemaking on short-term transportation (transactions shorter than one year); plus (2) an open-ended request for comments in a broader notice of inquiry. RM98-10-000, 84 FERC ¶61,985 [NOPR]; RM98- 12-000, 84FERC ¶61,087 NOI].
THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION met Aug. 14 in Chicago to address complaints filed concerning late-June electric price spikes in the Midwest, which saw prices climb a high as $7,000 per megawatt-hour.
Back in July, Commissioner James Hoecker had noted, "We need to know what led to the price spikes, and what ¼ this tells us about emergency market behaviors." He added: "We foresee a growing role for this commission in monitoring market performance."
But while the FERC debated, a shakeout loomed.
Debate at the Meeting
ANYONE AT ALL CLOSE TO the securitization scene agrees on at least one thing: The referenda in California and Massachusetts seeking to roll back restructuring have cast such a pall over the bond issues put out late last year by the California electric utilities to finance their stranded costs that any new issuer hoping for the same 'AAA' rating may as well get prepared to sacrifice his or her firstborn to the rating agencies.
I READ WITH INTEREST THE ARTICLE "TIME'S UP FOR PUBLIC Power," in the July 1 edition of your publication, written by Charles Bayless, the former CEO of Tucson Electric Power Co. (and now CEO of Illinova - Ed.). Particularly striking was the sidebar on page 34, which accuses the Western Area Power Administration, a power marketing administration within the Department of Energy, of hiding costs and inappropriately handling a number of financial issues such as depreciation. I welcome the opportunity to respond to this misinformation.