TWO WEB SITES ARE VYING FOR THE TITLE OF "FIRST Internet-based market for energy," one on the East Coast, the other out West. When last we checked, each traded only in natural gas, but each had plans in the works to expand to include electricity.
STILL TRADING BY PHONE. Southern California Gas Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. went live on Nov. 19 with their on-line, shareholder-funded, "retail shopping center for natural gas," known as Energy Marketplace (www.energymarketplace.com). Six suppliers were registered with the site as of mid-December (Cook Inlet Energy Supply, Enserch Gas Marketing, National Gas & Electric, Poco Petroleum, SCANA Energy and UtiliCorp Energy Solutions) and two more (em Coral Redwood LLC and Public Service Company of New Mexico (em had signed letters of intent. Suppliers pay a subscription fee to participate.
The two host utilities are only bringing together prospective customers and suppliers; they will not participate in the market. Customers can view a rank-order summary of bids and click on the one they like. The deal is completed off-line, which is the way SoCalGas likes it, explained Eric Baty, business information manager. The company isn't interested in "interfering with the customer-supplier relationship," and doesn't want to take title to the gas or be responsible for ensuring delivery or payment.