Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1996

Identifying Market Power in Electric Generation

To what extent should regulation yield to market forces in setting wholesale electric prices? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) posed this question when it sought comments on whether open transmission access would eliminate the need for anything like traditional rate regulation.

FERC Alters Affiliat Power Marketing Policy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has revised its policy on potential abuses by affiliated power marketers, lifting restrictions on marketing transactions involving affiliates that do not have captive customers. The changes stem from a case involving USGen Power Services, L.P., an affiliate of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) that sought to market power to and from affiliated and nonaffiliated entities, including exempt wholesale generators (EWGs) and power marketers, but not to PG&E (Docket No.

FERC Wants Transmission Info on the Net

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released proposed rules for real-time information networks and standards of conduct, a "critical" supplement to its electric transmission open-access NOPR (Docket No. RM95-9-000). The FERC wants all utilities to set up information networks that give wholesale sellers and purchasers of electricity equal access to information concerning availability and prices.

Depreciation Reserve Soaks Up Stranded Investment

Save a Nickel, Save a Dime

Is One Merger as Good as Another?

In late November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) put off immediate approval of the proposed merger between The Washington Water Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Resources (to form "Altus"), and set the case for hearing. The reason? The FERC doubted whether the merger would achieve operational efficiencies between the two noncontiguous utilities.

Washington Adopts Restructuring Principles

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has issued a policy statement of eight principles as a guide to adapting its regulatory authority to the "more competitive circumstances facing the state's electric industry." The statement is not binding on the UTC or on parties to formal proceedings.

The UTC said it would strive to promote the "natural" evolution of efficient markets, but that its primary goals would remain affordable prices for electric service, protecting the long-term integrity of the system, and preventing noneconomic bypass and attendant


Anyone on the East Coast can tell you a good snow story this winter. Like when I looked out my front window one morning and saw a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle get stuck in the middle of my street in downtown Washington. After spinning his wheels for a while, the driver got out and began walking toward Connecticut Avenue, a main DC thoroughfare.

The driver soon returned, carrying a fresh, steaming cafe latte from Starbucks in each gloved hand. He opened the door, climbed in, and gave one cup to his passenger.

California Set ROE for 1996

Energy utilities in California will be permitted to set charges at a level high enough to earn an 11.6-percent return on equity (ROE) for 1996. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was also awarded a separate 50-basis-point risk premium (12.01 percent) for the 70/30 debt/equity ratio associated with its natural gas pipeline expansion project.

The award reduces the ROE for all of the state's utilities except Sierra Pacific Power Co., which operated under an ROE allowance of 11.3 percent last year. Both Southwest Gas Corp.