A new coalition of 82 varied organizations (em including businesses, consumers, environmentalists, and utilities (em has announced support for the California Public Utility Commission's (CPUC's) majority proposal to restructure the electric industry.
Are utilities working at top productive capacity? A novel look at 19 investor-owned electrics in the Sun Belt.
Major restructuring is expected to hit investor-owned utilities (IOUs) over the next decade. Competitive market forces, in place of rate-of-return regulation, will require many companies to evaluate their resource allocations. No longer will singular adjustments in resource use suffice when both capital and labor resources must be realigned.
In the alphabet soup of regulatory acronyms, performance-based ratemaking (PBR) may help shape events well into the next century. At present, PBR is being implemented, or considered by, public utility commissions (PUCs) in over 20 states. By 2000, PBR is likely to reach most of the 50 states as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The pressures of a global economy have raised the stakes.
The winds of competition are blowing. Some find them chilling; others find them exhilarating. Deregulation calls on competitive markets to stand in for regulatory decisions, giving more choice to customers, reducing costs dramatically, and requiring new capabilities.
Competition is already transforming major portions of the electric industry.
As competition in the electric industry increases, so does utility concern about the effect of demand-side management (DSM) programs on electricity prices. Because DSM programs often raise prices, several utilities have recently reduced the scope of their DSM programs or focused these programs more on customer service and less on improving energy efficiency (see sidebar). Whether all utilities should follow suit is, however, open to question. We contend that DSM programs do not always exert upward pressure on prices (em just sometimes.
We stand on the threshold of a new era in the electric services industry. I deliberately avoid the term "electric utility industry," because the future is not limited to the vertically integrated monopoly utility. Many utilities may already perceive the first cracks in their armor: nonutility generators (NUGs), self-generators, and energy service companies.
Competition is not in the industry's future; it is here now. Further, competition and market forces are not going to magically disappear.
This fight is for the heart and soul of regulation everywhere. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) won the first round on February 22, but I think there's more to come.
The fight involves incentives for nonutility generators (NUGs). It also touches on PURPA (em the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (em which guarantees a market to cogenerators or power producers (QFs) who qualify. But more important, this battle involves regulatory philosophy.
(A.G.A.) forecasts a 3.4-percent increase in natural gas use for 1995, to 22.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) from 21.7 quads in 1994. "Such an increase would continue an eight-year trend that has seen natural gas consumption rise nearly 30 percent since 1986," Michael Baly, A.G.A. president, noted in a presentation to New York securities analysts.
2 percent of California's gross state product. Competitively priced electricity is vital to California's $800-billion-a-year economy, one would think.