Some big utilities are looking to get bigger.
When Morgan Stanley last October asked 30 of the top 50 utility chiefs whether they expected to merge with another...
10 Innovators to Watch in 1999
way for me to run my business."
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, while competitors were going out of business, Karas' financing expertise helped Zond build the 77-MW Sky River wind power project, at the time the largest wind facility in the world. Karas later pioneered insurance coverage for wind resource deficiency, and raised more than $500 million in project financing.
Through Karas' leadership, EWC has built two turbine lines, offering products ranging in cost from $850,000 to $1.5 million per megawatt, depending on location. The project in Minnesota, called Lake Benton I, provides electric at a 30-year "levelized" rate of 3 cents per kWh (em a figure competitive with fossil fuels.
The CEO envisions dramatic growth for the company. Two "Storm Lake" wind plants in Iowa will total 188 MW when completed next year. Karas hopes to hit $1 billion in revenues by 2001.
He may do that with the help of the next generation turbine, called the NGT, being developed under a $20 million contract with the Department of Energy.
The goal is to take the cost of wind power energy down to 3 cents per kWh or less, without government subsidies.
"We're not going to supplant conventional technology or nuclear technology," says Karas. "That's not this technology's role. But there's no reason we can't be anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the world's energy picture."
No one is expecting that over the next 10 years even, but Karas can be hopeful. His optimism helped him before. Why not now?w
Richard B. Priory, chairman and CEO, Duke Energy Corp.
If you don't move, you will fail. So goes the credo of Richard B. Priory, who has carried that testament with him through his 20-plus years at Duke Energy Corp., making himself over from a design engineer to CEO and taking the business from small local player into one that is making tracks as a world powerhouse in energy generation, wholesale trading, and plant design, construction and operation.
Going into 1999, Priory will head Duke's $2 billion in annual investment aimed at building the Charlotte, N.C. company's "asset platform" in midstream gas and electric generation markets.
Priory's laser vision has kept the company focused on what it does best, and that means staying away from retail markets. Unfortunately, that has meant more competitors lately, as companies discover they can't stand the overhead and capital burn rates of investing in retail businesses.
"The bad thing ¼ everyone is revamping their strategies and they appear to be heading down the same path that we are now," Priory says. "Now I've got more competition. So now's the time for innovation again."
Priory stepped into office at about the same time as Duke's $7.7 billion takeover of Houston's PanEnergy Corp. The takeover doubled assets to more than $20 billion and tripled operating revenue to $12 billion-plus. Over 1997-1998, Duke spent $1.2 billion for power plants in California and Connecticut.
Duke also can claim to be one of the largest U.S. power generators through nuclear energy, and Priory is proud that its plants carry