How state opposition cowed the feds and turned a powerful rule into just a set of talking points.
A funny thing happened on the way to a standard market design (SMD). What began as a full-fledged rulemaking-with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) giving instructions and imposing deadlines on the electric utility industry-now has degenerated into little more than a set of talking points.
Talk about cold feet.
Neptune and the Northeast
THE SEPT. 1, 1998 ISSUE OF Public Utilities Fortnightly contained an article, "The Fortnightly 100," which promised to reveal America's "most efficient utilities." The authors used data envelopment analysis (DEA) to analyze historical operating and financial data for 140 utility holding companies. While DEA can be a useful tool for data analysis, used indiscriminately it can lead to misleading conclusions.
IF COMPETITIVE ELECTRIC MARKETS PROMISE LEAN MARGINS and slim savings on commodity sales, then perhaps transmission and distribution companies could play a larger role in selling end-user services.
Yet low-risk T&D companies, building on their reputations as reliable providers, may need to grow to acquire the "critical mass" needed to make money selling services over delivery systems.
One of the few, if not only, businesses publicly betting on this strategy is the $4.1-billion GPU Inc. of Morristown, N.J. - and GPU means business.
LAST YEAR, IN JUSTIFYING THE PROPOSED NEW NATIONAL AMBIENT Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter and ozone, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner testified that: "During the 1990 debates on the Clean Air Act's acid rain program, industry initially projected the costs of an emission allowance¼ to be approximately $1,500¼ Today those allowances are selling for less than $100." %n1%n
Later in 1997, at the White House briefing announcing President Clinton's Global Climate Change Plan, Katie McGinty, chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, sa
ELECTRIC RETAIL PRICES. The Energy Information Administration has released a new report finding that the average retail price of electricity has declined for the third year in a row and remained stable for the first nine months of 1997. According to Electric Sales and Revenue 1996, average residential electric prices declined slightly in 1996, the first drop for that consumer class since the EIA began collecting data in 1984.
EL NIÑO HAS STRUCK, WITH NO END IN SIGHT.
Consider that Aquila Energy, the marketing arm of UtiliCorp United, has announced a new financial derivative, known as GuaranteedForecast,sm to hedge the weather against forecasts by the National Weather Service. The new product will pay holders a guaranteed amount if the mercury strays, and Aquila touts its thermometer hedge for any of 170 U.S. cities (em be it Spokane, El Paso, Chicago or New York. Why talk about the weather when you can invest in it, in true '90s fashion?
For this heating season, however, it may be too late.
UTILITY HOUSE CALLS. Michigan Gov. John Engler (R) signed into law a bill making it a felony to impersonate a utility employee to enter private property for criminal purposes. The new law calls for those convicted to be imprisoned for not more than two years and to pay a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar (R) signed into law an electric restructuring bill for the state. Edgar noted that concerns over the bill were addressed by the state's two largest utilities, Commonwealth Edison and Illinois Power Co.
POWER PLANT SALE. Central Maine Power Co. has agreed to
sell its hydroelectric, fossil and biomass power plants totaling 1,185-MW of generating capacity to FPL Group, the holding company of Florida Power and Light. The sale price of $846 million exceeds book value and could permit up to a 10-percent rate cut for customers by the end of the year.
OHIO/TEXAS DEAL. Ohio-based American Electric Power
Co. and Texas-based Central and South West Corp. on Dec.
Electric Competition Moves On
The recent months have brought a flurry of activity in a number of states:
ARIZONA: The Arizona Corporation Commission approved rules opening Arizona's electric industry to competition over a four-year period starting in 1999. The rules allow retail customers to retain standard electric service, or to choose competitive services.
Beginning Jan. 1, 1999, utilities must make available 20 percent of its peak 1995 demand to all customers, including small business and residential.