On Saturday, November 11, WPL Holdings, Inc. announced its three-way merger with IES Industries Inc. and Interstate Power Co. to form Interstate Energy. The very next day, in a full-page ad that ran in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Madison Gas & Electric Co. launched its counteroffensive, featuring Boris the Pig.
"Hi (em I'm Big Boris," the ad begins. (The face of a handsome pig with a large snout stares back at the reader.) "My friends and I crave Radical Electric Deregulation. We cleverly call it 'Customer Choice.' Under 'Customer Choice' we big guys get all the electricity at prices we want and you get what's left over." At the bottom of the ad, MGE provides a toll-free number you can call to "learn how deregulation will affect you." (See Table of Contents for later MGE ad and WPL response.)
So I called.
In fact, during the first few weeks of November, I spent two half-hours on the phone talking directly to David C. Mebane and Erroll B. Davis, Jr., the respective top men at MGE and WPL. Earlier, at a Capitol Hill press conference and suburban luncheon, I had talked briefly with Richard A. Abdoo, who is chairman, president, and CEO of Wisconsin Energy, the holding company for Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (WEPCo). Here's a taste of what they said.
Beware of Moguls
Richard Abdoo is one who believes strongly in customer choice. "Right there in Madison," says Abdoo, "the University of Wisconsin operates the 10th largest R&D plant in the country, but they're having to cut back because of high power costs. They could save $3 million a year if they could switch. Heck, WP&L has its headquarters right there inside MGE's service territory."