State regulators continue to update methods of pricing telecommunications services, using price caps for local exchange carriers (LECs) while expanding existing pricing flexibility for interexchange carriers (IXCs). The emerging trend toward inviting competitors to serve the local market, including basic local exchange service, also continues. Some of the activity mirrors ongoing developments at the federal level, such as major regulatory reforms under debate in the Congress and court-supervised modifications to existing service restrictions stemming from the AT&T divestiture.
California Public Utilities Commission
At Addison Mizner's pink fantasy on a Spanish theme, the Boca Raton Resort, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) waited for Godot. Yes, that was the theme of EEI's 30th financial conference, and its first plunge into literature. You may remember the play, in which two hobos talk endlessly while waiting for the mysterious Godot, who has not yet arrived by the final curtain. In the same way, electric utilities and those who invest in them have been awaiting the advent of restructuring, the California remake of the industry, retail wheeling somewhere, and the wipeout of stranded assets.
California regulators and the utilities they oversee have been talking a lot in recent years about competition. But just being able to "talk the talk" isn't enough (em utility companies and the regulators who monitor them have got to "walk the walk." And on that score, they've just barely begun to crawl. Despite all the marketing hype, the monopoly mindset is still very apparent among industry officials and regulators.Take California's energy industry, for example.
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.
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.
What's in a Name?
Charles Studness's article "CPUC Chooses Reregulation over Deregulation" (Financial News, July 15, 1995) reminds me of Humpty Dumpty's scornful remark in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "When I use a word, it means what I choose it to mean (em nothing more nor less."
When Studness discusses "deregulation," it is clearly what he chooses it to mean (em not what the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proposes in its May 24 majority decision on deregulating the electric utility industry.
Companies in competitive industries routinely collect information about their customers through a variety of sources (em including surveys, national census, and government and private sources. Such customer information and its applications are jealously guarded secrets, rarely shared with others in the industry. Customer information is not limited to expenditure on a company's products or services, but usually includes a customer profile.
DOUDIET:Stranded investment has overshadowed other financial issues in the transition to a competitive electric utility industry. For example, what will post-transitional companies look like? Will they attract growth-oriented investors?
Utilities as monopolies enjoyed unparalleled access to the capital markets because price was based on cost. That structure assured the ability to raise funds under any and all circumstances, but it created an atypical industry.
Mortgaging Your Conservation: A Way Out for Stranded Investment?Andrea L. Kelly and Donald E. Gaines
When an electric utility invests in a resource to serve its customers, it does so with the belief that the asset underlying the investment can be pledged as collateral to secure debt capital. But what happens if the asset is not owned by the company and, therefore, provides no collateral? The following situations illustrate:
Electric utility "A" chooses to build a small generating plant to meet the future needs of its growing customer base.
The Interstate Natural Gas Association has appointed Terry D. Boss v.p. of environment, safety, and operations. Boss replaces Theodore L. Kinne, who has retired.
R. Paul Grady has resigned as v.p. of corporate development with UGI Corp., a holding company with utility and propane marketing subsidiaries, to become v.p. of sales and operations at its wholly-owned subsidiary AmeriGas Propane, Inc.
Western Fuels Association, Inc. has reelected the following board members: Robert L.