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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1999

online, leaving utilities vulnerable to upstarts selling electricity over the Internet.

The study examined 144 web sites in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong. It found tremendous variation in the quality among utility web sites, and nominated Utility.com as the best performing site overall. The site was judged to outperform other sites in key areas such as quality of content, ability to conduct transactions, range of interactivity and usefulness of content to key stakeholders.

Utility Cash Flow. Fitch IBCA's annual "Electric Utility Financial Peer Study," which compared selected financial ratios of 110 electric utilities for the year ended June 30, reports a bolstering of utility cash flow measures across all rating categories with the transition to a competitive generation market.

Nevertheless, Fitch does not expect that level of cash flow to be maintained beyond the transition period, when generation plant values will be written down to market. See www.fitchibca.com.

Business Wire

Utility Settlement Ontario Inc. and Harris Computer Systems have announced plans to interface two of their top systems, USO's Settlement One and Harris' Customer Information and Utility Billing System, allowing the two systems to "talk" to each other. Settlement One, designed for use in deregulated electricity markets, manages the commodity settlement among local distribution companies, their customers and multiple retailers that will be part of the new power paradigm in Ontario.

CellNet Data Systems Inc., a provider of telemetry services, has installed the 3 millionth device in its wireless networks. CellNet, whose networks primarily monitor electricity, natural gas and water usage for utilities throughout the United States, has accelerated its average installation rate to 125,000 devices per month.

Aquila Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of UtiliCorp United, is establishing a presence in Scandinavia in order to offer energy-related and risk-management services to industrial and energy groups in Finland, Norway and Sweden, marking the company's third strategic move this year into European markets. The Scandinavian region is the leading electricity market in Europe, with a 1999 sales volume in financial contracts estimated at 1,000 terrawatt-hours. Leading the development is Nord Pool ASA, the world's longest-established electricity market, formed in 1993. "Because of the strategic importance of Scandinavia as a European energy market and the significance of Nord Pool, this represents another key step in Aquila becoming a truly European energy player," said Richard C. Green Jr., UtiliCorp.'s chairman and chief executive officer.

The MCHC/IHHA Utility Program - a joint effort of the Metropolitan Chicago Health Care Council and the Illinois Hospital & HealthSystems Association to help association members reduce electricity and other utility costs under Illinois' new deregulation law - recently entered into a partnership with Nicor Energy L.L.C. Through the partnership, the Utility Program will offer electric and natural gas services to the approximately 250 Illinois hospitals and health care organizations that are members of the two associations. Nicor Energy is a joint venture between Nicor Inc. and Dynegy Inc., two of the nation's largest energy providers.

Courts

Ozone & Particulates. On Oct. 29 a federal appeals court voted 2-1 to deny rehearing of its May ruling