Twenty-five centuries ago, 300 steadfast Spartans, defending their sacred Greek turf, held up Xerxes's Persian army at the pass at Thermopylae just long enough for the Persians to lose the opportunity to conquer Greece. The world would have been quite different if the Spartans had just "given way."Contemporary state public utility regulators number just about that of those plucky Spartans.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 15 1995
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a comprehensive settlement for Southern Natural Gas Co. (SNG), resolving the company's costs associated with its transition to Order 636. The settlement resolves
23 rate cases, reduces rates, and provides about
$146 million in customer refunds (Docket No. RP89-224-000, et al.). Protesting parties have been severed from the case.
The refunds, plus $9.1 million contributed by SNG, will serve as a credit toward customers' liability for SNG's cost of realigning gas supplies under Order 636.
Concluding an investigation of supply-cost recovery for the Associated Natural Gas Co., a natural gas distribution company (LDC), the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) has found imprudent the LDC's long-term supply contract with an affiliated supplier, SEECO, Inc. The PSC excluded from adjustment clause recovery one-half the premium paid above spot-market prices under the contract for firm fixed-price swing-gas supply. The PSC said the LDC failed to properly evaluate other gas suppliers prior to entering into the contract or to document its gas purchasing practices.
State and federal regulators and the industries we regulate have donned life jackets. It's as if we are boating down the unexplored Grand Canyon with John Wesley Powell1 in 1869. We share a vague vision of what lies at the mouth of the canyon, but the rapids are treacherous and uncharted.
On the river, boatmen and women often scout the tough rapids from the shore. Back on the river, they carefully set themselves up at the proper position and angle, then apply deft, sometimes powerful, strokes at crucial moments.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rejected a proposed amendment to the NEPOOL agreement that would have 1) facilitated negotiation of energy-only transactions by and among pool members, and 2) eliminated an otherwise applicable rate discount for transmitting energy involved in certain of those sales (Docket No. ER95-1466-000).A key aspect of NEPOOL operations is sharing of reserves. Each member is assigned a capacity responsibility equal to its load plus a share of the pool's combined reserve requirement.
Question: Will your commission still be around in the year 2000? If so, what will it look like? Are you restructuring your commission with the same fervor you devote to electricity, gas, and telecommunications?Response by Nancy McCaffree, Chair, Montana Public Service Commission:
As a regulator I have had the opportunity to listen to economists, energy planners, and other professional soothsayers. I have come to the conclusion that the only certainty pertaining to future forecasts is that they will be wrong 100 percent of the time.
Mid-American Energy Co., Illinois Power Co., Wisconsin Power & Light Co., Western Resources, Inc., IES Utilities, and Commonwealth Electric Co.
"We consider this a success story," said FERC chair Elizabeth A. Moler. "While we still have a long way to go, this is real progress.
Question: What is your relationship with the state legislature? Do lawmakers in your state show interest in utility regulation? Should PUCs work more closely with state legislatures?Response by Boyce Griffith, Chairman, West Virginia Public Service Commission:
The West Virginia PSC's relationship with the legislature is good. The West Virginia legislature has been active in utility regulation. I believe West Virginia utilities already work closely with the legislature and will continue to do so.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued two final rules that seek to reduce the filing burden on the natural gas industry. One simplifies the Uniform System of Accounts and the FERC's reporting requirements (Docket No. RM95-4-000). The other simplifies the filing requirements for making rate and tariff changes under Part 154 of the regulations (Docket No. RM95-3-000).
The rules recognize that most interstate pipelines now serve as transporters rather than as merchants.
Did you hear the one about the middle-aged utility executive who became depressed about plans to restructure his company? It seems he couldn't cope with how fast things were changing. So he threw himself in front of a glacier.
That story comes from a meeting I attended back in October, styled Executive Visioning Workshop, sponsored by Arthur D. Little, Inc., which attracted some 21 energy industry executives.