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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2000

the RTO Alliance , which consists of ALSTOM ESCA Corp. , Open Access Technology International, Perot Systems, and TenFold Corp. , to deliver an integrated control center system that will provide $50 million in infrastructure for the MISO, the largest independent transmission system operator in the United States. The hardware and software will support MISO's operational functions including transmission planning, reservation, scheduling, real-time monitoring and control settlement, and billing.

SCT has signed a contract with IBM to integrate SCT's Banner customer relationship management software with IBM's technology solutions for The New Power Co., a recently announced utilities venture spearheaded by Enron Corp. Under an agreement between IBM Global Services and SCT, the SCT Banner customer information system will be integrated into numerous back-office information technology solutions under development by IBM for The New Power Co. These solutions include customer care, electronic data interchange, billing, and a variety of other functions.

PowerTrust.Com, an Internet-based energy company for homeowners and small businesses, has unveiled PowerInternet, the first free Internet service provider available from an online energy company. The service ( www.PowerInternet.net) is available through a partnership between PowerTrust.Com and MillionEyes.Com, which develops marketing solutions and brand equity for companies and organizations in the form of private label, premium Internet service.

HoustonStreet Exchange has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Enron, under which North American electricity and natural gas prices posted on EnronOnline automatically will be posted on HoustonStreet.Com. Traders will be able to act on the EnronOnline prices via either platform. The addition of EnronOnline pricing will correspond with the launch of HoustonStreet's natural gas platform in September.

Otter Tail Power Co. has announced the sale to Retx.Com, an e-business provider to the retail energy industry, of a model for an Internet-based software technology designed to facilitate and ensure robust customer choice in the retail electric market. The sale gives Retx.Com exclusive rights to the technology, with Otter Tail retaining certain royalty rights on product sales for five years. "The technology provides customer switching, scheduling, and imbalance accounting in a deregulated electric utility industry," said John MacFarlane, president and CEO of Otter Tail.

 

Studies & Reports

Electric Competition. On July 21 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report on electric utility restructuring, calling the industry the "latest and largest" in which extensive regulation has been made "obsolete" through advances in technology, most notably the combined-cycle natural gas turbine. It called on restructuring efforts to focus on market power that could lead to predatory pricing:

  • The report implies that utility mergers may have gone too far in concentrating ownership of generating resources: "Current antitrust laws are not designed to address the mere possession of market power or the legitimate acquisition of or increase in market power through lawful regulatory processes."
  • Citing fuel cells and distributed generation as likely alternatives to the transmission grid, the report urged regulators to insist on independent control and operation of the transmission grid. The FTC predicted that owners of transmission (and now distribution) assets still have profit incentives to deny grid