Mergers & Acquisitions
NSP + New Century. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission OK'd the merger of Northern States Power Co. (NSP) and New Century Energies Inc. (NCE), to form Xcel Energy Inc., on condition that the new company would join the Midwest Independent System Operator. FERC Docket No. EC99-101- 000, Jan. 12, 2000, 90 FERC ¶61,020.
* Rate Pancaking. The FERC found no problem with transmission rate pancaking with the MISO condition, even though NCE subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. (SPS) belongs to the rival Southwest Power Pool.
Weighing the outlook for new plant investment in gas-fired power and related infrastructure.
The jury is still out on the type and size of additional energy infrastructure desirable in the Northeast United States, but enough data is in to make a few guarded observations.
The situation is fluid.
With so much at stake, why don't utilities ask vendors for plug and play?
Everyone agrees that competitive retail energy markets need interoperable information systems. Otherwise, the high cost of switching proprietary metering and data communications systems could offset savings from customer choice. Standardization reduces the costs of automating operations - also crucial for competitive companies. Interoperable "plug and play" systems can free companies of dependence on expensive, single-sourced equipment. So why do most utility systems remain incompatible from vendor to vendor?
Micro maverick Bill Althouse sees a grand conspiracy to blot out customer-owned generation.
Distributed generation is out of the box. It's time for regulators to wake up. The paradigm has already shifted."
That's Bill Althouse talking, president of Althouse Inc. of Albuquerque, N.M., a seat-of-the pants business (he says he's near bankruptcy) that helps homeowners and businesses install on-site generation. I met him via email as I researched why, on Jan.
September meeting sends draft legislation back to the drawing board.
Reliability is a self-correcting issue (em if we let it slide, something will happen and it will be corrected ¼ [But] do you want the government to do it?"
That was one industry representative speaking of attempts by the North American Electric Reliability Council (known as NERC) to evolve into a self-regulating reliability organization, or SRRO.
ELECTRIC POWER SYSTEMS ARE HEAVILY DEPENDENT ON computers and communications. The electric power industry is reputed to be the third largest user of computers and communications, behind government and the banking industry. When regulators and legislators make decisions regarding the electric power industry, their decisions often carry implications for the industry's computer systems. However, it is rare for these implications to attract significant consideration or influence in the deliberative process.
No one has yet explained why the electric industry needs independent system operators to manage the transmission grid and a private institution to do essentially the same thing.
That question remains unanswered even now that the North American Electric Reliability Council has released its draft legislation showing how it would recreate itself as NAERO, a self-regulating electric reliability organization insulated from antitrust scrutiny by governmental oversight.
"Reliability does not exist in a vacuum," noted P.R.H. Landrieu, v.p.
NO MORE METER MONOPOLY?
So they say. Many believe that utility control over electric metering exerts a chilling effect on retail choice in energy. They claim that competitive energy service providers cannot earn a high-enough margin on the commodity alone, but must offer companion services - metering, billing and value-added options.
Yet the road to competitive metering is pitted with potholes. Utilities, ESPs and private meter vendors and manufacturers can be found arguing over a raft of issues.
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, ENGINEERS AT AMERICAN ELECTRIC Power measured the transfer capability or transmission capacity (in this article we will use the terms interchangeably) between AEP and Commonwealth Edison. Using traditional methods, they found that the winter transmission capacity that year was 3,500 megawatts.
Then they performed a more exhaustive and nonstandard analysis. It showed that during the month of January, transmission capacity actually varied from a low of 1,600 MW (less than half the nominal amount) to a high of 6,000 MW (70 percent higher than nominal).