Fortnightly Magazine - June 15 1997

New Jersey Issues Restructuring "Master Plan"

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has issued its final master plan on electric restructuring, which could cut electric rates by 10 to 15 percent starting October 1998. The plan allows all customers to choose electric suppliers by July 2000.

The board now will submit "Restructuring the Electric Power Industry in New Jersey: Findings and Recommendations" to the governor and Legislature.

The plan would phase in retail choice, beginning with 10 percent of all residential, commercial and industrial customers, in October 1998.

Off Peak

Downsizing has trimmed the work force, but utilities may have given up those savings by going outside to purchase labor, goods and materials. Electric utilities might be overlooking the obvious (em the rapidly increasing costs of purchased goods and services (em while trying too hard to trim internal costs through downsizing and personnel cuts.

While utilities cut labor costs by less than 1 percent per year from 1992 to 1995, the costs of purchased goods and services rose by an average of more than 4 percent each year (see Chart 1), according to a study of utility economics by A.T.

Georgia Governor Signs Gas Law

Georgia Gov. Zell Miller has signed into law the "Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act," which unbundles natural gas services and opens residential gas markets to competition.

Under S.B. 215, in less than three years Atlanta Gas Light Co. and its affiliates, Georgia Natural Gas and Savannah Gas Co., no longer will sell natural gas directly to end users. Instead the companies only will provide delivery service.

PECO Fights for Stranded Costs Recovery

PECO Energy Co. has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission to approve its securitization request and reject a recommendation by an administrative law judge that the PUC not allow PECO to recover stranded costs from ratepayers.

On Jan. 22, PECO asked that it be allowed under the state's new electric competition act to refinance $3.6 billion of its electric generation assets through securitization. But on April 14, Judge Louis Cocheres recommended against the proposal. (See Pa PUC Docket No.

North Carolina Oks Duke Merger

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved the proposed $7.7-billion merger of Duke Power Co. and Houston-based PanEnergy Corp. to form Duke Energy Corp., subject to conditions designed to protect North Carolina ratepayers from potential adverse effects.

The commission said the merger must ensure that ratepayers of the new company receive no fewer benefits than ratepayers in other jurisdictions.


Corporations will need FERC approval for a merger simply because they own paper assets that qualify as utility property.

In three companion orders issued April 30, 1997, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission tried to stake out new jurisdictional turf. It attempted to expand its jurisdiction under section 203 of the Federal Power Act to cover "convergent" mergers and reorganizations involving electric utility holding companies and power marketers.

Competitive Efficiency: A Ranking of U.S. Electric Utilities

Do mergers and "critical mass" really make a difference? The answer, it seems, is yes.

To become more competitive, U.S. electric utilities have embarked on a quest in recent years to improve operational efficiency and factor productivity. The question is: Are utilities making progress? And, which companies have gained a competitive edge? Which have not?

Industry analysts have long argued that given the structure of the markets they serve and their cost-based, rate-setting procedures, electric utilities tend toward monopolistic behavior.

FERC Asserts Jurisdiction in Nontraditional Mergers

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved three orders that together clarify the Commission's jurisdiction over corporate realignments.

The FERC found on April 30, that while it does not have jurisdiction over mergers of public utility holding companies, it does have jurisdiction over transfers of control (dispositions) of public utility facilities.

Selling Off Your Nuclear? Here's What the NRC Has in Store

Too many rules can make any plant uncompetitive.

Now, more than ever, the commission must weigh

the costs when it looks at health and safety, decommissioning and antitrust impacts. Nuclear assets seem to pop to the surface wherever one looks for causes behind the current upheaval in the U.S. electric utility industry. The nuclear experience (em with its costly prudence reviews so prevalent during the 1980s (em has helped fuel a major shift in attitude.

Senior utility managers have now come to accept fundamental changes in the electric industry.

Courts, Tunnel Completion Pave the Way for Nuclear Disposal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on April 30 ruled that petitions filed in the nuclear waste storage lawsuit against the Department of Energy will be treated as petitions to compel the department to comply with a July 1996 court decision ordering the DOE to store nuclear waste beginning Jan. 31, 1998.

Meanwhile, a tunnel boring machine broke through the earth's surface at Yucca Mountain, Nevada (em the proposed storage site for the spent nuclear waste (em completing a five-mile dig that went as deep as 1,400 feet beneath the crest of the mountain.