Although moving briskly at the state level, federal-level legislation to deregulate the electric utility industry is floundering in Congress. But a report from a blue-ribbon committee of the Consumer Energy Council of America, released March 4, strongly urges passage of such a measure "sooner rather than later." On the controversial issue of whether federal or state mandates should take precedence, the report calls for a compromise: States would have the final authority either to implement retail competition in electric power or decline to do so, but would be required to "submit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, by a date certain, regulatory findings on the implementation of retail competition in their state, using federal guidelines."
The report also recommends: consumers should stay with their existing utility and pay cost-based rates during the transition period to deregulation; any federal legislation should authorize a "federal backstop" to ensure reliability of service; a funding mechanism be established for low-income consumers; and public funding be provided to develop energy-efficient technologies.
The report was prepared by an advisory committee of more than 60 representatives from industry, federal and state governments, environmental organizations, and consumer groups.