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Fortnightly Magazine - August 1996

The United States Telephone Association has called for more voluntary interconnection agreements between telecom companies, claiming that the resulting competition will bring consumers more choices. USTA cited more than 50 signed agreements with companies that want to connect to the local network, and nearly 500 ongoing negotiations.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the Gas Research Institute's request for a 20-percent cut in its 1996 research, development, and commercialization budget. The revised budget is $44 million less than the $218.8-million package approved last October. The downsizing corresponds with a significant drop in revenues collected under GRI's current funding mechanism. Similar cuts will be proposed in the 1997 and 1998 programs.

Electric utilities, local distribution companies, and natural gas pipelines purchase $2.5 billion yearly in outsourcing services, according to TECC Group, Inc., a Littleton, CO, research firm. Some 80 percent of that figure goes to computer, construction, consulting, engineering, corporate, environmental, financial, legal, management, and research services.

The Uch Power Project, the second-largest private power plant in Pakistan, has been financed for $630 million. Developing the project will be Midlands Electricity; GE Capital Corp.; Tenaska, Inc.; Hawkins Oil and Gas, and Hasan Associates. The 586-Mw, gas-fired plant will be the first in the country fueled with indigenous low and medium-Btu natural gas. Lenders include the World Bank and U.S. Eximbank.

CNG Energy Services Corp. has opened a power marketing office in Portland, OR.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), Microsoft Corp., and eight utilities have begun testing energy information services that could one day be linked to home computers. Currently, PG&E's software is linked to a wireless remote control and a TCI TV-top box. Microsoft's multimedia operating system connects interactive services to a TV interface. As the test progresses, a PC/Internet connection will be used. Customers will be able to track their energy usage; adjust their lighting, heating, and air-conditioning schedules; and check the energy costs of appliances or an entire home. t


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