TODAY THE ELECTRIC UTILITY INDUSTRY HURTLES TOWARD massive restructuring. This fervor is not surprising as it appears society has become convinced that market forces can work better than a centrally planned, regulated environment. This conviction draws strength from deregulation in other industries, such as the airlines, natural gas production and telecommunications.
WHAT IF YOUR STATE LEGISLATURE THREW A PARTY and you had to go? Best of all, this power party cost less than the one you went to (em and paid more to attend (em last year.
In simple terms, that's how some observe Ohio's latest proposal to convince the state's 11 million wary consumers to choose their electricity provider.
Two Republican state legislators have proposed the consumer-bent transitional system, called retail marketing areas or RMAs, as part of a broad electric restructuring program. The pair, Sen. Bruce E. Johnson and Rep. Priscilla D.
AMERICANS ARE fascinated with lists. There are lists of just about anything you can name, from the Fortune 500 to baseball batting averages. There's even a book of lists. We especially like to rank "top tens," like the 10 best cities to live in or the 10 worst school districts in America. Television has popularized these lists.
IS IT A FAD OR BUSINESS? According to a recent SmartMoney %n1%n article, about 3 million customers traded $120 million in securities on the Internet last year, generating $700 million in commissions for online trading firms.
While this sum marks just 5 percent of total commissions for securities trading, it accounts for a healthy 30 percent of commissions for discount brokerage. Online trading firms, nonexistent several years ago, now total more than 50.
THREE FACTORS (em RESTRUCTURING, TECHNOLOGY AND environmental controls (em now create both reason and opportunity for electric utilities to lower their property taxes, which often make up a substantial cost of doing business.
Property tax valuation is fairly straightforward. Most states compute property taxes on fair market value, or what a hypothetical buyer and seller would agree the property is worth, with both parties having knowledge of the relevant facts and neither compelled to buy or sell.
AMID WORRIES THAT RESIDENTIAL CONSUMERS MAY NOT benefit from competition comes a study that shows at least one industry will: metering. This market is expected to grow an average of 5 percent per year through 2002.
By 2002, the metering industry is expected to be worth $3.1 billion, up from $2.4 billion last year, says Metering for Utilities: Riding the Wave of Deregulation, a new book from Business Communications Co.
Overall, meter reading systems are expected to log the highest average annual growth rate, about 16 percent each year over the next five years.
POWER PLANT SALE. Central Maine Power Co. has agreed to
sell its hydroelectric, fossil and biomass power plants totaling 1,185-MW of generating capacity to FPL Group, the holding company of Florida Power and Light. The sale price of $846 million exceeds book value and could permit up to a 10-percent rate cut for customers by the end of the year.
OHIO/TEXAS DEAL. Ohio-based American Electric Power
Co. and Texas-based Central and South West Corp. on Dec.
THE RESIDENTIAL MARKET STANDS AS THE NEXT FRONTIER for natural gas unbundling. In California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, states have introduced pilot programs and other unbundling efforts to target residential gas consumers. %n1%n
These efforts are hardly surprising. The residential market, presently dominated by the regulated local distribution companies, appears lucrative. In 1995, the residential sector of the U.S.
A COLORADO COOPERATIVE REMAINS SPLIT FROM THE NRECA and its general manager says a draft resolution against "federally mandated retail wheeling at this time" won't win it back. Stan R. Lewandowski Jr., Intermountain Rural Association's general manager, says the resolution, which will be considered at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting in March, would still make the association sound wishy-washy (see Public Utilities Fortnightly, Nov. 1, 1997, p. 50).
Nuclear Plant Fines. The Nuclear Regulatory Commis-
sion has proposed fines totaling $2.1 million against Northeast Nuclear Energy Co. for many violations at the company's Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Conn. The fine marks the largest civil penalty ever proposed by the NRC. Northeast Utilities said it will pay the fine, which it called "a necessary and important step toward bringing to closure a very disappointing and difficult chapter in the company's history." The utility said it will not pass the cost onto ratepayers.