Stranded Investment Surcharges: Inequitable and Inefficient

Retail competition will render a substantial fraction of existing electric utility plant worthless. Some estimates are so large that the question of compensation for these so-called "stranded investments" overshadows debate on the value of retail competition. Advocates of compensation frequently appeal to a "regulatory compact." They claim that this compact justifies compensation for utilities on grounds of fairness. The case for fairness, however, is badly flawed. Moreover, compensation may adversely affect the efficiency of markets in which competition is emerging.

Nation's First RTG on its Way

As required under a conditional approval order issued in October, the Western Regional Transmission Association (WRTA) has filed its compliance agreement at the FERC (Docket No. ER94-1288-000). WRTA agrees to provide comparable transmission service, and has filed a transmission plan that gives individual members the right to make the final decisions on whether transmission facilities are built. WRTA has 31 members (em utilities, state agencies, and independent power producers (IPPs) (em that represent 70 percent of the transmission capabilities in the western United States.

FERC Revamps Hydro Regulations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved a final rule on charges and fees for hydroelectric projects. Annual charges will now be assessed beginning on the date construction starts rather than when a license is issued (Docket No. RM-93-7-000). The rule eliminates annual charges for minor licensees (em projects of 1.5 megawatts or less (em and caps annual charges at two percent of total costs incurred by the FERC. To update its regulation, the FERC also substituted kilowatts for horsepower to determine capacity.

IEP Challenges BRPU Ruling

The Independent Energy Producers (IEP), a Sacramento-based independent energy advocacy group, has announced that it will petition for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its ruling that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) violated the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) by requiring two utilities to purchase power at above avoided costs (FERC Docket Nos. EL95-16-000 and EL95-19-000).

FERC to Flesh Out Comparability

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has set for hearing issues related to a proposed, open-access transmission tariff for point-to-point service in Citizens Utilities Co.'s (CU) Arizona service territory. It also approved CU's agreement requiring a transmission customer, Aha Macav Power Systems, Inc., to pay a $190,000 contribution in aid of construction (CIAC) to interconnect to CU's grid (Docket No.

Illinois Avoided Cost Statute in Line with PURPA

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ruled that an Illinois statute did not require rates above avoided cost for wholesale sales by qualifying facilities (QFs), and so did not violate the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) (Docket No. EL95-27-000).

The statute at issue requires a utility to buy power from qualifying solid-waste energy facilities at the utility's retail rate. But the statute includes an offsetting monthly tax credit, which prevents a utility from paying more than its avoided costs.

Virginia Power Fights Muni Flight

Virginia Power (VP) has asked the Virginia Corporation Commission to prevent a municipality, the City of Falls Church, from ousting VP as the provider of electric service (Case No. PUE9500). VP says the city notified the utility that it intended to establish either a municipal purchasing or marketing entity or an electric utility that would own or control enough transmission or distribution facilities to avoid the "sham wholesale transaction" prohibition of the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

FERC Vindicates New York IPP Contracts

When the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reform the contract prices of two independent power producers (IPPs), Lockport Energy Associates, L.P. and Saranac Power Partners, L.P., the move triggered a call to arms from the Independent Power Producers of New York, Inc. (IPPNY). And in the pitched battle that followed, IPPNY did indeed emerge victorious. The IPPs sell electricity to New York State Electric and Gas Co.


If anyone ever asks about what you read in this column, tell them you heard it somewhere else.

Of course, I don't really mean that. Let me put it another way: The FORTNIGHTLY gets invited here and there with the understanding that some things will end up in print, and others not. And while I never quote anyone if they were holding a fork or a glass, I do my best to bring back the inside story.

Using Hourly System Lambda to Gauge Bulk-power Prices

The electric power industry lies in the midst of major change, including a shift to market-based wholesale prices. Market players and regulators will recognize that competition requires a shift in thinking on key issues such as resource planning before the market is developed enough to provide adequate price information.