Questar Gets Its Way in Utah
Why utilities haven't scored at e-commerce.
From what I hear, utilities would love to junk their call centers, whether or not they run them in-house. Call centers had their moment in the sun, but today the Internet makes them look feeble. Why hire a minimum-wage sales staff to take orders by phone when consumers will gladly input their own bids at the click of a mouse? You can't trim transaction costs any closer than that.
How 165 lawyers were mostly on the wrong side in the biggest electric merger to date.
With Warren Buffet buying up MidAmerican Energy as his own personal utility, and Bill Gates taking a stake in Avista, the standard electric merger starts to look tame.
For that and other reasons, I believe it's all but certain that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will soon OK the electric industry's biggest-ever merger, combining American Electric Power Co. with Central and South West Corp.
Roll over wireless, tell your meter the news.
AMR has come full circle - from industry darling to problem child and now back again to the next new thing. For this latest reincarnation, thank the Internet.
Early AMR efforts focused on how to recoup costs through lower operating expenses and more accurate usage data, but infrastructure startup costs proved a stumbling block to modernization when industry uncertainty over deregulation made companies wary of whether they'd ever see a return on their investment.
Now deregulation has matured enough to remove some uncertainties.
News Digest was compiled by Carl J. Levesque, editorial assistant, Lori A. Burkhart, contributing legal editor, and Bruce W. Radford, editor. For continual news updates, see www.pur.com.Nuclear Power
Transmission & ISOs
Transco Independence. Granting Entergy's request for a declaratory order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled in a case of first impression that a stand-alone transmission company ("transco") would meet the test in Order 888 for independent system operators despite passive ownership by a power producer or other market participant.
NOX EMISSIONS. Generating heavy criticism from industry, on September 24 the Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited final rules on nitrogen oxide emissions, outlining a plan to reduce NOx by 28 percent by year 2007 in some 22 states and the District of Columbia, with state implementation plans due by September 1999 and controls in place by 2003, to be carried out through a "cap and trade" program to buy and sell NOx emissions credits.
ISO GUIDELINES. Marking a contrast with California, but lining up with states in the Northeast, the Iowa Utilities Board has urged that independent system operators should have authority to order redispatch to help fulfill service requirements for electric transmission. That rule came as part of a set of principles issued by the board to guide the formation of ISOs in managing electric transmission systems and preventing the exercise of market power.
THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY HAS OVERtaken the sweepstakes industry for the dubious title as The Most Complained About Industry.
From January through June of this year, the National Fraud Information Center received 2,071 cramming reports, plus hundreds more calls from consumers with a cramming problem but not enough details for the NFIC to file a formal report. The Federal Trade Commission defines cramming as unexplained charges on a consumer's telephone bill for services never ordered, authorized, received or used.
GAS PIPELINES. Noting a move toward shorter-term contracts since Order 636, the FERC on July 29 issued an "integrated package" of reform proposals for the natural gas pipeline industry: (1) specific measures in a notice of proposed rulemaking on short-term transportation (transactions shorter than one year); plus (2) an open-ended request for comments in a broader notice of inquiry. RM98-10-000, 84 FERC ¶61,985 [NOPR]; RM98- 12-000, 84FERC ¶61,087 NOI].
William Catacosinos has resigned as chairman of MarketSpan Corp., the utility formed to replace the troubled Long Island Lighting Co. Catacosinos is under investigation by the New York attorney general due to a $42-million severance payment as part of the buyout of LILCO by the New York government-run Long Island Power Authority (see Public Utilities Fortnightly, August 1998, p.28).
SCT Utility Systems Inc., signed a software and services agreement worth about $13 million with the city of Seattle for the BANNER Customer Management System.