Richard Reiten, Chairman and CEO of Northwest Natural Gas
Mark Hand is senior editor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.
How has the gas utility industry changed during your tenure as head of Northwest Natural?
The trends are clear. When I arrived six years ago, we as a company benchmarked 34 gas distribution utilities as comparable companies in most respects to Northwest Natural Gas. Today, we're benchmarking only 14. The convergence issues of gas and electric are important. That's a real issue of how to manage the clear trend toward combination companies.
How does your job as head of a gas utility in the Pacific Northwest differ from the issues facing your colleagues elsewhere in the United States?
We have more options here with respect to supply. We can bring gas from British Columbia and the Northwest Territories directly from the north of us. We can bring gas from Alberta northeast of us. And we can bring gas from the Rockies areas north on the Williams West Pipeline. We have some pretty good options with respect to supply and we're nearer to the producing areas than the Northeastern companies.
For operating a gas utility here, we also are one of the faster growing gas utilities in the country. We've been growing between 4 and 5 percent over the last 10 or 15 years versus a national average of one and a half. And the reason we've been growing is because we have a lot of conversion opportunities in electric and oil furnaces that are not available in many of the other markets, which are more saturated with gas than here.
How does it feel being one of the first gas utility CEOs in recent memory to manage the acquisition of a larger electric utility?