Last year was pivotal for nuclear power. On May 13, 1994, the board of directors of the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) voted 9-4 to terminate reactors WNP-1 and WNP-3, triggering a dismantling of the two mothballed reactors, both about 70 percent complete. For ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest, the decision offered no relief from bills for construction of the two plants (em recently estimated at about $350 million per year for the next 24 years1. In many ways, WPPSS and its troubled history is a microcosm of the U.S.
As electric utilities move ever closer to all-out competition, senior executives are streamlining their organizations, reducing spending, and developing strategic plans to ensure their company's future success. Organizations that cannot substantiate their contribution to the company's financial bottom line risk major budget cuts.
Increasing competition in the electric power industry is likely to entail a little-recognized major complication (em greater difficulty in siting transmission lines. The stakes will often be greater, the opposition could be stronger, and both put a premium on finding a process that can win public acceptance cost-effectively.
After considering the matter in several proceedings since 1991, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has decided to permit the state's utilities to include in rates the full cost of switching from cash to accrual accounting for post-retirement benefits other than pensions (PBOPs) under SFAS 106. The PUC rejected proposals to require the utilities to alter certain SFAS 106 financial reporting requirements (em for example, extending the amortization period for recovery of PBOP transition costs from 20 to 40 years.
Financial models within the utility industry are changing rapidly. Driven by competition, deregulation, and shareholder concern ov er profitability, North America's intermediate and larger-sized electric and gas companies are looking more closely at information technology (IT) investments.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has reaffirmed an earlier ruling permitting telecommunications utilities subject to price-cap regulation to use accrual accounting for post-retirement benefits other than pensions (PBOPs) under SFAS 106. It also warned that it may change its existing policy, which allows recovery of the costs of the accounting change as an exogenous cost under the price-cap form of regulation. The CPUC explained that "strong arguments can be made" that PBOP costs are within the utilities' control and simply normal costs of doing business.
No matter how you cut it, the Customer Information System (CIS) represents a utility's largest computer asset. It eats up the most disk space. It contains the most programs and lines of code. It handles the largest volume of business, whether measured in transactions or dollars.
Billing lies at the core of the CIS. It's the most complex area. But once bills go out to customers, the CIS must manage accounts receivable and the collection process, not to mention financial control and reporting.