Let me tell a story. A consultant I know works as the lead negotiator for a Native American tribe that sells fuel to electric generating plants. On occasion he visits the reservation to discuss business plans with the tribe, exploring various scenarios for utility restructuring.

Recently, this consultant said he found himself in the ceremonial council lodge, instructing tribal leaders on decision trees and discounted cash flows. When he finished, the younger members conferred briefly in their native language.

The Union Label: Electric Restructuring's Hidden Side

In union circles, they call it "burial insurance." That apt phrase denotes the severance, early retirement and re-training packages negotiated for veteran utility workers sideswiped by a changing market.

So far, labor has won some insurance: through legislation in California and in Maine; through a commission order in Massachusetts; and a pending settlement agreement in New York City, prompted by a commission order.

Labor lost hard in Pennsylvania and in Rhode Island, however. Worker protections weren't built into restructuring decisions in those states.

Pilot Program Nearly Perfect

In reference to your May 15 article, "Report Finds Problems With Choice Pilot" ("Headlines," p. 16), following is the industrial customers' response to the report.


On May 7, 1997, a group of large industrial consumers of electricity on the Illinois Power Co. system, referred to as the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers, filed a response to a recently submitted report by Illinois Power Co., pertaining to the Direct Energy Access (DEAS) report.

Electric Utilities Seek Rate Caps in Rail Merger Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has affirmed a 1995 order by the Interstate Commerce Commission (now the Surface Transportation Board) approving the merger of two major railways serving the western U.S., despite claims by several electric utilities that the merger would result in unfair rail prices.

The appeals court rejected claims by the electric utilities that the ICC should have assigned trackage rights and imposed rate caps while approving the merger of Burlington Northern Inc. and The Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Co.

Recovering Stranded Costs: Not "If," But "How"

Illinois has yet to face the issue, but when it does, it may find the road blocked by jurisdictional rules at the FERC. According to estimates by Moody's Investor Service, the state of Illinois would face stranded costs of nearly $6 billion if it should mandate retail wheeling to allow the state's electric utility customers to choose their own supply of electricity.

Residential Pilot Programs: Who's Doing, Who's Dealing?

Residential Pilot Programs:



Customer choice and electric restructuring may appear synonymous to regulators, but for utilities "choice" means "market share."


planned or underway in the United States by the end of November, involving some 500,000 customers in all classes. The goal? To test competition in retail electric markets.

In the residential class, pilots were operating in Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York. Massachusetts expected to roll out its pilot by January 1. Pennsylvania was planning an April startup.

Telco Business Services Ruled Noncompetitive

An Illinois appeals court has upheld a ruling by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that certain services offered to business customers by Illinois Bell Telephone Co. are noncompetitive.

The local exchange carrier (LEC) had reclassified the services (distance-sensitive calls, credit card calls, and operator assistance) as competitive to take advantage of pricing flexibility permitted under the ICC's regulatory reforms for the industry.

Illinois Approves Retail Wheeling Trials

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has OK'd experimental wheeling programs advanced by two of the state's major investor-owned utilities, Illinois Power Co. and Central Illinois Light Co. Both plans focus on large industrial customers, but Central Illinois would also allow direct access for commercial and residential customers over a five-year period in five defined test areas (called "open access sites").