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Fortnightly Magazine - February 15 1998

Utilities Earn an A+ for Power Plant Auctions

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for their coupons.

These utilities (see sidebar, "Going Once, Going Twice¼ Sold!") can expect their credit ratings to remain firm or even jump (em although that's debated by analysts. Such improved ratings may surprise market observers led to believe that loss of utility collateral would hurt investment grades.

The New England Auction: Regional Strategy for Competitive Generation

David Haarmeyer, Robert T. McWhinney Jr. and Ronald Moe

USGEN IS THE NATURAL CANDIDATE TO PURCHASE NEES' generation assets. We have a well-established commitment to the region; we have strong power plant operating experience; and we have been a leader in promoting competition and customer choice in gas and electric industries."

(em USGen President and CEO Joseph P. Kearney

In August 1997, U.S. Generating Co., an affiliate of PG&E Corp., successfully bid $1.59 billion in a competitive auction for all of New England Electric System's non-nuclear generating business (18 power plants, plus power purchase contracts and other assets).

Green Electricity: It's in the Eye of the Beholder

Lori M. Rodgers

SOME PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW WHAT "GREEN POWER" means (em and, by extension, "environmentally friendly." Does that mean low emissions, including nuclear energy? Is renewable energy automatically green? Should the simple fact of compliance with all standards imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency afford the right to advertise power generation as green?

Consumers, agencies and state and federal officials want truth in advertising. Proponents of alternative generation claim consumers are willing to pay more for cleaner, greener energy.

Testing Share & Load Growth in Competitive Residential Gas Markets

Alexander Lonshteyn

THE RESIDENTIAL MARKET STANDS AS THE NEXT FRONTIER for natural gas unbundling. In California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, states have introduced pilot programs and other unbundling efforts to target residential gas consumers. %n1%n

These efforts are hardly surprising. The residential market, presently dominated by the regulated local distribution companies, appears lucrative. In 1995, the residential sector of the U.S.

Record Gas Demand Means Higher Prices

Robert Ineson

RDI'S NEW STUDY, THE CONVERGENCE OF GAS AND POWER: Causes and Consequences, projects gas consumption in the United States will grow 2.4 percent per year, or a 26.8-percent increase from 1998 to 2007.

Overall, demand is expected to grow from 20.5 trillion cubic feet in 1998 to 26 Tcf in 2007. More than half of this projected growth will come from electric industry demand for gas, which will increase from 4.1 Tcf in 1998 to 6.9 Tcf in 2007, or 5.3 percent per year.

The jump in gas consumption is linked to the electric industry's limited range of choices for new capacity.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

AS YOU CHILL OUT IN YOUR TV CHAIR, WATCHING THE Winter Olympics from Nagano, Japan, think a moment about Kyoto, not far away, and what the climate change treaty might have in store.

On Jan. 8, federal climatologist Tom Karl announced that 1997 was the warmest year on record, with thermometer readings exceeding the mean (1961-90) by 0.42 degrees centigrade (0.75 degrees Fahrenheit). Writing in his World Climate Report, editor Patrick J. Michaels took Karl to task for reporting only half the story.

People

THE former chairman of the Missouri Public Service Commission, Karl Zobrist, is now a partner at Blackwell Sanders Matheny Weary & Lombardi LLP.

Zobrist resigned from the commission on Aug. 15, 1997.

Robert C. Kelly, former chairman and CEO of Enron Renewable Energy Corp., was named managing director of renewable energy for Enron International.

Steven J. Lewis joined AEP Energy Services Inc. as senior vice president of energy services. Previously, Lewis managed trading of natural gas and electricity for Duke/Louis Dreyfus LLC.

Michael P.

News Digest

Lori A. Burkhart, and Phillip S. Cross

POWER PLANT SALE. Central Maine Power Co. has agreed to

sell its hydroelectric, fossil and biomass power plants totaling 1,185-MW of generating capacity to FPL Group, the holding company of Florida Power and Light. The sale price of $846 million exceeds book value and could permit up to a 10-percent rate cut for customers by the end of the year.

OHIO/TEXAS DEAL. Ohio-based American Electric Power

Co. and Texas-based Central and South West Corp. on Dec.

Perspective

Beverly E. Jones

THE COALITION OF utilities calling to "Repeal PUHCA Now!" has pulled together a first-class team of lobbyists. They have been working intensely on Capitol Hill for more than two years. But they haven't won the easy victory they thought was within their grasp when the Republicans took over the Congress in 1994. The major flaw in the coalition's approach is classic: The pro-repeal lobbyists have been tireless talkers, but poor listeners.

Off Peak

AMID WORRIES THAT RESIDENTIAL CONSUMERS MAY NOT benefit from competition comes a study that shows at least one industry will: metering. This market is expected to grow an average of 5 percent per year through 2002.

By 2002, the metering industry is expected to be worth $3.1 billion, up from $2.4 billion last year, says Metering for Utilities: Riding the Wave of Deregulation, a new book from Business Communications Co.

Overall, meter reading systems are expected to log the highest average annual growth rate, about 16 percent each year over the next five years.