Nuclear Power: Ask a Contrarian

No one needs to tell the readers of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY about the technical, economic, regulatory, and institutional obstacle course facing the nuclear power industry. All you need do is look around to see an industry struggling to live up to expectations. Some would term the nuclear outlook "grim:"

• No economic incentives to build new nuclear plants.

• No new plant orders in the United States (a modest complement of foreign orders)

• Precious few attempts to renew operating licenses; even fewer succeed.

Price Behavior in Electricity Futures: The Story So Far

What do the first months of trading say about the spread between spot markets and futures prices?

ust over nine months ago the New York Mercantile

Exchange opened trading in the first-ever electricity futures contracts. As occurred

previously in oil and gas, futures trading in electricity

promises to play a central role in

commodity markets (em markets that are gradually evolving as competitive.

Electricity futures also provide a valuable tool for managers at utilities or other power producers.

Gas LDC Offers Residential Transport Options

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has authorized Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., a local distribution company (LDC), to 1) expand transportation "to potentially capture all residential customers," and 2) institute a voluntary capacity-assignment pilot for residential and small commercial users only. The new transportation service will give residential customers the option of purchasing gas from a marketer by allowing them to aggregate in groups of up to 50 to meet the 5,000-Mcf volume threshold in the tariff.

Gas LDC to Unbundle

While authorizing Northern Utilities, Inc., the sole instate natural gas local distribution company (LDC), to contract with an affiliated company to provide storage capacity and services, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has directed the utility to file an unbundling tariff proposal that includes transportation, load-balancing, and third-party merchant services.

Under the approved supply arrangement, Granite State Gas Transmission, Inc. will provide storage capacity and service from a liquefied natural gas facility in Wells, ME.

LDC Sales Customers Win Allocation Dispute

After reviewing an application by National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., a local distribution company (LDC), to increase its purchased-gas cost rate, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has ordered the LDC to credit its sales customers with revenues collected from the transportation class as penalties for exceeding the current 10-percent limit on delivery imbalances. The PUC explained that costs for storage capacity due to overdeliveries by transportation users should be paid for by the class of customers responsible for such costs.

Real-Time Pricing: Paying at the Margin

Savings, yes. But some load-management

techniques may imply trade-offs in service

quality.By Scott L. Englander, John E. Flory,

Leslie K. Norford, and Richard D. TaborsAs facility manager for a large hotel, you browse your energy vendor's web site to view tomorrow's hourly prices. But it seems your computer (pc) has already done some browsing of its own. Since it's connected to your energy management system, your pc has already looked up the weather forecast and has logged on to the hotel's main computer to find out what rooms will be used.

Natural Gas Combo to Serve One Million

Atmos Energy Corp. and United Cities Gas Co. have announced an agreement to merge in a share-for-share exchange of common stock.

Atmos distributes natural gas to about 673,000 customers through its operating subsidiaries, Energas Co., Greeley Gas Co., Trans Louisiana Gas Co., and Western Kentucky Gas Co. United Cities distributes gas to about 310,000 customers, operates gas storage facilities, and distributes propane to 25,000 customers.

Order 636 Upheld, with Remands

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on July 16 upheld Order 636, which required unbundling of natural gas pipeline sales and transportation services, but remanded at least six issues to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for further explanation (United Distr. Cos. v. FERC, No. 92-1485, July 16, 1996).