Technological advances in electric generation and telecommunications make utility competition both possible and inevitable. These economic forces will eventually break down the regulatory structure of the electric industry. However, public policy should play a crucial role in molding and nurturing competition.In recent months, regulators in a majority of the states have opened proceedings to study electric competition.
A broad coalition of Minnesota electric cooperatives, municipal utilities, consumer advocates, and environmentalists has joined the debate over the restructuring of the state's electric industry.
The competitive transformations of the natural gas and telecommunications industries are over a decade in the making. By contrast, competition in the electricity industry is still emerging. Special interests have defeated many proposed competitive reforms. For example, in 1988 the FERC failed in its attempt to adopt regulations to encourage competitive bidding and independent power producers (IPPs).1 Similarly, decades of forceful industry opposition delayed open access in bulk-power markets.
In its recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on wholesale competition and open-access transmission,1 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has outlined a plan to revolutionize the electricity industry.
Will the Crown accept the olive branch offered by its colony, or will conflict ensue? That was the question posed on July 13 by Thomas Page, CEO of San Diego Gas and Electric Co., at the "Western States Workshop on California Restructuring," the first industrywide meeting to discuss the policy proposals issued six weeks before by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).The Crown sent its emissaries.
Following an established policy disallowing rate recovery of executive incentive compensation awards, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has rejected ratepayer funding for a salary plan administered by GTE Hawaiian Telephone Co., Inc. The PUC denied the carrier's attempt to differentiate its executive incentive plan by asserting that the plan was not a "bonus or extra compensation," but part of a total salary package set at a level competitive with market compensation.
Efforts to site new facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste (HW) and radioactive waste have met with utter paralysis. HW disposal companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to site new landfills and incinerators for this waste, but most of this money has gone down the drain. Since the enactment of the chief federal law on HW, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), only one new HW landfill has opened on a new site in the United States (in prophetically named Last Chance, CO).
The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has terminated an ongoing rulemaking on stranded-cost recovery by electric utilities in the state. In closing the docket, the PUC cited proposed rules recently issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as evidence of FERC jurisdiction in the matter.
Widespread concern over nuclear plant decommissioning has triggered similar interest in the decommissioning of fossil-fired steam generating stations. This rising interest stems in part from the emergence of a competitive market in electric generation, which, among other things, threatens impairment of assets.
Fossil decommissioning issues are not nearly as contentious as those that attend nuclear plants.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued its comprehensive notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) designed to move the wholesale electric industry to a more competitive marketplace. The order, Open Access Non-discriminatory Transmission Services by Public Utilities and Recovery of Stranded Costs by Public and Transmitting Utilities, weighs in at over 300 pages (Docket Nos.