Monthly Archives: September 2006

Think Twice Before Switching Utilities

In 1996, the New York PSC adopted a utility “restructuring” paradigm prominently championed by Enron. Under that model, customers could deal with two utilities for electricity and possibly two more utilities for natural gas. The traditional utility, in that model, would stop selling electricity and gas, which would then be sold only by lightly regulated Read more…

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NYISO Costs Skyrocket, Benefits Questioned

From Power Pool to ISOThe New York Power Pool (NYPP) was formed in 1966 to coordinate the state’s electric power grid after the 1965 major blackout in New York City. By agreement of its member utilities (seven investor owned utilities and the New York Power Authority), NYPP dispatchers issued orders to control which generators run Read more…

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Industrial and Residential Customers Agree: Proposed FERC Rules for Electricity Market Rates are Flawed

After years of experimenting with “market-based rates” for wholesale electricty, at times with disastrous results for consumers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is proposing to adopt official rules regarding market rates. Currently, market rates for wholesale sales of electricity have been authorized by FERC under a series of generic orders and individual orders, which Read more…

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Customer Groups Urge NY PSC to Restore Fixed Rates

In 2005, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order that led to the elimination of fixed utility rates for residential customers of Central Hudson Gas & Electric. The rationale of the PSC to eliminate the popular natural gas fixed rate option, requested by more than 9,000 customers, was to foster the provision Read more…

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US Justice Department Sues to Bar Connecticut Inquiry into Possible Warrantless Disclosure of Customer Telephone Records

Telephone records regarding calling and receiving numbers, the time and duration of calls are needed by the telephone companies for billing purposes. This information is considered to be “Customer Proprietary Network Information” (“CPNI”). Most state telephone regulators, including New York’s PSC, strictly limit the use of CPNI. The New York PSC adopted general privacy principles Read more…

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Federal Electricity Competition Report Overdue

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a federal Interagency Task Force to “conduct a study and analysis of competition within the wholesale and retail market for electric energy in the United States.” When that group issued a request for public comments on October 19, 2005, it portrayed its role as being to report to Read more…

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Virginia Report: Restructuring Has "No Discernible Benefit" for Customers

The Virginia legislature passed an electric utility restructuring act in 1999. In broad outline the Virginia restructuring law is similar to New York’s administrative restructuring, which was engineered by the New York PSC through agreements with each of the investor-owned electric utilities beginning in 1997, rather than by legislation. A Virginia statute requires the Virginia Read more…

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Candle Fires and Monoxide Poisoning: Aftermath of “Rolling Blackouts” Interrupting Utility Service to Low-Income Households

The essential nature of electricity service in our society is often taken for granted. When a geographic area blackout occurs, due to grid failures or storms, it is major news when large numbers of people are simultaneously without power for a few hours. A “rolling blackout” occurs when electric grid operators deliberately shut power off Read more…

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New Concerns Raised About Manipulation of Natural Gas Prices

In recent years, prices for natural gas have risen steeply. The usual explanation given is that it is due to market forces, the natural consequence of supply and demand. A few months ago, several midwestern state attorney generals issued a report on natural gas markets authored by economist Mark Cooper, Ph.D. Cooper frequently authors reports Read more…

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