The governments of most Latin American countries have yet to establish clear policies about the future ownership of existing generation assets, but they do expect future capacity to be largely developed by the private sector. This has created friction in some countries between governments, which are eager to limit the role of the state in electric supply, and national utilities, which feel threatened and continue preparing traditional expansion plans.
Most electric utilities have invested heavily in building private telecommunications networks. In fact, U.S. utility telecommunication networks combine to form the largest private network, second only to that of the Department of Defense. While these networks improve power system control and operational efficiency, they typically contain excess capacity available for sale to other companies. Given increased competition in their core business, many utilities are currently reviewing opportunities to use this excess network capacity.
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.
Electric utilities are informationally dysfunctional. When we surveyed electric utility managers from around the country, we found a general consensus: Individual employees may possess vital information, but typically they do not know what to do with it. They don't understand why it's important or who may need it.
By Kenneth W. Costello, Robert E. Burns, and Youssef HegazyThe electric power industry is next in line for dramatic change. Competition has edged into individual markets, particularly the bulk-power market. This move toward competition has provoked debate in several states over the merits of retail wheeling. Specifically, should retail customers have the right to purchase their power requirements from sources other than the local utility? Many states have addressed the issue in different forums, at different levels of intensity.
The meltdown of the Clinton health reform plan suggests a return to competition-that managed care, capitated payment, and regional alliances will assume leading roles in the delivery of health service. But that conclusion may prove premature. Missing from the debate is a discussion of the true costs and implications of these emerging health alliances and health management organizations (HMOs).
Managed care may not offer the expected panacea for containing health costs.
In his recent article, "Cost-of-Service Studies: Do They Really Tell Us Who's Subsidizing Who?" (Nov. 15, 1994), Mark Quinlan proposes an alternative cost-of-service methodology. He claims that under current cost-allocation methods (and given adequate capacity to meet demand) a rate class with increasing sales subsidizes a rate class with decreasing sales.
In setting utility conservation goals, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to permit the state's electric utilities to eliminate demand-side management (DSM) programs that increase rates for nonparticipating customers.
One of the great attractions of demand-side management (DSM) lies in its ability to accommodate one-stop shopping. In contrast to the traditional supply-side approach, DSM allows energy utilities to minimize price hikes and maintain environmental quality even while meeting increasing needs.
Nevertheless, some of the initial excitement has waned. For example, The Wall Street Journal reviewed 11 programs in late 1993 and found that 8 realized less than half their projected savings.