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News Release
Commission Presses Agency For Power Market Data
July 28, 2000 (2000-037)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Oregon Office of Energy Administrator, 503 378-4131; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
NARUC Resolution Document
Salem, OR - The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Oregon Office of Energy are pressing the Western Systems Coordinating Council (WSCC) to make its electric generation and distribution data available to state regulators to help them better understand recent upheavals in the wholesale electricity market.
The council is one of 10 industry-sponsored power-reliability groups formed in the 1960s by federal officials after East Coast blackouts.
The WSCC denied the Commission's initial request on the grounds the data is "commercially sensitive." However, in its letter requesting the data, the Commission points out the information is available to all market participants and keeping the data confidential in the current environment is difficult to justify. The Commission said the policy leaves customers and regulators lacking vital information for monitoring and evaluating wholesale electric markets.
"I don't think there is anything sinister about the way the council's current policy evolved, but failure to change the policy will only invite suspicion, create a crisis in confidence and spawn additional efforts to impose mandatory requirements on the market," said Chairman Ron Eachus.
"A number of Oregon businesses have already been battered by recent spikes in wholesale electricity prices," said John Savage, administrator of the Oregon Office of Energy. "This information is necessary for figuring out what is happening with the wholesale power market and what it means for Oregon."
The request for data comes amid volatile price swings in late May and June. Planners for Portland General Electric (PGE) anticipated prices would fluctuate in the $35 to $80 per megawatt hour (mWh) range. Instead prices climbed to $1,000 in June. They have since leveled off to $150 per megawatt.
The price spikes have prompted some large industrial customers to curtail or shutdown operations and could lead to increased prices for smaller commercial and residential customers if utilities seek cost adjustments in rates.
"We cannot fulfill our obligation to protect the interests of consumers if this information is held as the exclusive property of electricity suppliers, said Commissioner Roger Hamilton. "These extraordinary price spikes threaten the viability of utilities, large employers, and new wholesale markets."
In its letter to the WSCC, the Commission said regulatory agencies must have access to the data to evaluate and monitor the developing wholesale electric power market. The Commission also said it failed to see any potential commercial harm from releasing the data to the states. Oregon, along with many other states, has decided to open its retail electric market to competition. That decision rests upon the assumption that the wholesale power markets are functioning well.
The data access issue is not confined just to the western region. At its July meeting, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) passed a resolution in support of making the data available to regulators. (See attached resolution)
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