Retail Energy Choice. At press time, Virginia issued proposed interim rules governing pilot programs for electric retail competition in electricity and natural gas, with comments due Feb. 24. The interim rules were not expected to resolve all issues, but only to provide a starting point to gain experience.
Among other points, the interim rules would require utilities to make information available through electronic bulletin boards on availability of commodity supply, ancillary services, and transmission and distribution capacity. Case No.
Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson appointed three new members to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board for two-year terms. J. Brian Atwood is the executive vice president of Citizens Energy Corp. and director of Citizens International. Daphne Kwok is the executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans Inc. Burton Richter is the Paul Pigott Professor of Physical Sciences at Stanford University and director emeritus of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
California has a plan to track green electricity, but can it be trusted?
All electricity is the same, but the California Energy Commission wants to change that. It plans a system to authenticate the source of electricity to allow consumers to buy power from specific generators. Standard documents called "Certificates of Specific Generation" would certify financial transactions. Presumably, the plan would help document the authenticity of non-generic electricity products, such as green power.
T+D Investment Risk. The Maine PUC appeared to take a pro-consumer stance in setting principles it will use to set a revenue requirement for transmission and distribution (T&D) services provided by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. after the company becomes a wires-only utility on March 1. The PUC downplayed the risk of wires operations, adopting a return on equity of 11 percent and disallowing about $3.5 million of some $71 million in claimed T&D costs.
Gas Retail Rate Design. In a move toward equalizing rates of return between customer classes, the Oregon PUC authorized Northwest Natural Gas Co. to increase base rates by nearly $246,000, at the same time boosting residential rates by 1.3 percent but lowering rates for large commercial and industrial users. It set return on equity at 10.25 percent, finding the rate "consistent with the downward trend of ROEs authorized by other regulatory commissions." Order No. 99-697, Nov. 12, 1999 (Ore.P.U.C.).
Mergers & Acquisitions
Joint Ventures. The Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, issued draft antitrust guidelines for "collaborations among competitors" that will apply to a wide range of joint ventures and strategic alliances other than actual mergers.
Such collaborations would include R&D efforts, information sharing and joint efforts in marketing, distribution, sales or purchasing, plus various types of trade association activities. File No. 971201, Oct. 1, 1999 (F.T.C.), published at 64 Fed. Reg.
Studies and Reports
Natural Gas Retail Choice. Utility affiliates hold large market shares in natural gas customer choice programs, raising questions about the extent of true competition, according to a study released on Dec. 15 by the U.S. General Accounting Office. Participation varies by region, however, according to the report, "Energy Deregulation - Status of Natural Gas Customer Choice Programs."
In Pennsylvania, for example, three out of four programs showed very high shares for utility affiliates. The Equitable Gas Co.