Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1996

Northwest Utilities Form ISO

Seven electric utilities in the Northwest have formed an independent system operator (ISO), called "IndeGo," to coordinate their electric transmission. IndeGo will operate as a single control area, responsible for the operation of transmission-grid facilities carrying 230 kilovolts or more that are owned or directly controlled by the member utilities.

Local Exchange Resale: Two Views

Two recent decisions from Hawaii and Michigan illustrate some of the issues now arising on the question of resale of telephone service by local exchange carriers (LECs).

In Michigan, the state public service commission has directed the state's LECs to offer all basic local exchange services for resale in a nondiscriminatory manner to competitors and affiliates at wholesale rates. It defined "wholesale rates" as retail rates less the avoided costs to the LEC.

Mass. Makes Strides Over Choice

Massachusetts is moving forward with electric and gas competition on all fronts. Environmental Futures, Inc., the program administrator for Massachusetts Electric Co.'s (ME's) "Choice: New England" pilot, has issued requests for proposals for up to 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity so that electric suppliers around the country may compete to service about 10,000 current ME customers. The one-year voluntary pilot, which begins in December, will let residential and small commercial customers choose their electric supplier.

North Dakota OK's Primergy Merger

The North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved the Primergy merger between Northern States Power Co. and Wisconsin Energy Corp.

As an important factor in its decision, the commission noted that after the merger, Primergy plans to reduce North Dakota electric rates by 1.5 percent and gas rates by 1.25 percent, with a moratorium on increases until 2001.

ALJ Rejects SCE Request for PBR

A California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administrative law judge (ALJ) has issued a proposed decision denying interim performance-based rates (PBR) for Southern California Edison's (SCE's) transmission and distribution services. Since SCE plans to transfer to an independent system operator on January 1, 1998, the ALJ found the interim period too short for PBR to significantly benefit shareholders or ratepayers. SCE will, however, have the opportunity to amend its application to propose a

long-term PBR mechanism for distribution service only.

Off Peak

New thinking defines "stranded costs" in terms of

asset value and return on capital, not lost revenues.

On July 3, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) submitted its report to the Governor and General Assembly on retail electric competition (PUC Docket No.


Texas Merger Nears Settlement

Southwestern Public Service Co. (SPS) and Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCC) have promised to credit Texas ratepayers a minimum of $3 million in annual bill savings (em one part of the settlement proposed on July 8 in their merger case before the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC). According to SPS, the proposed settlement represents an agreement reached between it, the staff of the Texas PUC, and five intervenors in the merger case.

The PUC's administrative law judge has suspended the proceeding so the various parties can finalize details.

Long-Distance Firms May Triumph in Texas

The Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued a preliminary order allowing Sprint Communications to enter the local-exchange market without committing to a lengthy plan to build a telecommunications network.

The Search for Consumer Content in Energy Marketing and Retailing

The battle to control profit margin really boils down to a battle for the customer premises, where the serious money resides.The gas and electric industries in the United States control about $900 billion in assets (production, logistical, merchant). They employ these assets to serve about 150 million customers (counted separately for gas and electric), but they manage to offer only two rudimentary products (em molecules and electrons (em and at only two levels of service: firm (supposedly) and interruptible (obviously).