Are GISB's Days Numbered?
The head of a Gas Industry Standards Board (GISB) task force
that's exploring the feasibility of the organization getting
involved in creating standards for retail electric and natural gas,
as well as for wholesale power, personally believes a new
standards-setting group should be formed to undertake the task.
"We're not talking about taking a GISB charter and just making a
few changes in it.....What we're talking about is getting a roomful
of people that represent both the gas and the electric [industries
together].....and then you'd sit down and everything would be up
for grabs. You'd in effect form a new organization," said James R.
Templeton, also a GISB board member, at the third industry-wide
meeting exploring the issue last Wednesday.
"There may be some very good reasons why [we'd] use GISB's
present certificate to get [this task] done. But it won't then be
called GISB," he noted, adding that instead it possibly would be
re-named the Energy Industry Standards Board (EISB). Many of GISB's
principles, however, would be part of the new group ---
independence, openness, its voluntary nature and balanced interests
"so that nobody's ox can be gored."
But GISB "has not yet determined that it will jump into this
briar patch," said Templeton, principal of Houston-based
Comprehensive Energy Services Inc. Before it can proceed in this
direction, it will need the broad support of the gas and electric
industries, greater financial backing and more volunteers from
Also, a key issue to be considered is whether "common standards
[can] be applied to both the gas and electric industry, or are they
just too different," said Jerry Langdon, a former FERC
Commissioner. He noted the question has dogged the Commission for
Templeton's task force was formed in response to a request by
the Coalition for Uniform Business Rules (CUBR) last September for
GISB to explore developing retail standards for natural gas and
electricity. GISB "actively took up the charge," and added
wholesale electricity to the list. GISB, whose focus to date has
been on developing standards for wholesale gas, has the authority
to establish retail gas standards as well, but standards for retail
and wholesale electricity are outside of its scope.
When it put the request to GISB, CUBR "didn't envision GISB
doing this solely by themselves," said an official with Reliant
Energy, which belongs to CUBR. Rather, it saw GISB as a
"facilitator or coordinator" of a collaborative process in which
all market segments would band together to form a gas and electric
energy standards board, he noted.
In a gesture of conciliation, the Edison Electric Institute
(EEI) said it will meet with GISB board members within the next few
weeks in an effort to bring more electric utilities and
electric-related companies into the debate over whether standards
should be established for retail and wholesale electricity and, if
so, by whom.
Michael McGrath, EEI's group director of energy services, agreed
to the meeting after a handful of electric representatives who
attended the industry-wide meeting expressed concern that a gas
standards-setting group, which currently has only minor electric
representation, might be in charge of creating standards for the
"I think the challenge has been made to EEI to come and visit
with GISB.....and talk about how we might proceed. We accept
that.....We have already assembled a board level team to work that
issue," McGrath said.
Templeton and other GISB members tried to assuage the concerns
of the electric representatives at the meeting. "We're not trying
to jump in and tell a very large part of the U.S. economy how to
run its business," he noted. There's no one at GISB who believes
the group alone will "decide how and who and when.....to do
electric standards and then foist them on the electric industry,"
said Jim Buccigross, chairman of GISB's executive committee and
director and general counsel for the National Registry of Capacity
Some gas members of GISB were hesitant as well about the group
becoming involved with electric standards, saying they feared that
gas interests might be overlooked in the event GISB assumed this
responsibility. At GISB, the "plate is pretty full with the gas
agenda. So clearly what will not work is if current GISB members
end up doing the work" for the electric industry, said a
representative of Williams.
The issue, he said, boils down to whether the electric industry
participants feel the GISB model "is the most efficient and
effective way to move forward with establishing standards, or
should it be a mere image organization? In other words, rather than
reformulating GISB, do something different. Do [they] feel it's
most effective to have their own organization, but adopt the same
process [and] procedures" of GISB?
The new standards-setting organization, if formed, would propose
and adopt voluntary standards for the electronic exchange of
information, record and data formats, communication protocols and
related business practices that would streamline the transactional
processes of both the electric and natural gas businesses,
including retail and wholesale, said Templeton.