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News Digest

Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 2001

management system, the Savoy WebEngine. The grant was one of 18 research and development projects selected by DOE to receive funding. The projects are designed to improve energy efficiency of commercial and multi-family residential buildings across the country by using less electricity and reducing pollution from heating and cooling systems.

Sermatech International has acquired Turbine Technology Services Corp. , a high-technology engineered products and services provider for gas turbine and combined cycle power plants. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. "As the installed base of gas turbines has grown rapidly, power generation plant owners have been looking for ways to effectively reduce costs and to manage the complex outages required to keep their machines running efficiently," said James McCabe, president of Sermatech. The capabilities of Turbine Technology Services complement our growing core of gas turbine products and services enabling us to meet our customers' need for comprehensive maintenance packages."

In preparation for customer choice and retail competition beginning in Alberta on Jan. 1, 2001, EPCOR, an Alberta-based utility services provider, has implemented an advanced billing system from Itron Inc. to meet the billing needs of its commercial and industrial energy customers. Itron's MV-PBS is a client/server-based billing and market settlement solution that produces customized bills and invoices to meet the needs of commercial, industrial, and wholesale energy customers that purchase energy under a variety of complex rates, supply contracts, and schedules.

Convergent Group Corp. has signed a definitive agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd. , whereby the Schlumberger subsidiary will acquire 71.7 percent of the outstanding Convergent Group common shares for $8.00 per share in cash. Convergent Group management and employees will own approximately 26 percent of the remaining shares, and Cinergy Ventures LLC , a unit of Cinergy Corp., the firm's largest client, will retain equity in the firm, holding the remaining ownership interest. -C.J.L.


Power Markets
California Prices: Real or Rigged?

FERC review only opens up an endless debate.

By Thanksgiving, after the Nov. 22 deadline had passed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for submitting comments on the remedies the agency had proposed to tame runaway power prices in California and the West, the whole question had split into three separate and distinct debates:

  • Why should the "filed rate doctrine" bar retroactive refunds when prices are set by markets, not by tariffs?
  • Do California's high prices stem from anticompetitive behavior, market design, or simple scarcity of supply?
  • If a price cap is warranted, then what is the just and reasonable price?

On Nov. 22, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison both asked the FERC to change its tune and order retroactive refunds of excess power costs. Edison saw the key problem as one of market power and abuse. By contrast, SDG&E did not insist that market manipulation was to blame, but instead urged the FERC to cap wholesale prices based on costs incurred by generators.

Meanwhile, PG&E asked the California Public Utilities Commission to stabilize rates and proposed a five-year stabilization plan that would lock the cap on wholesale power costs