New technologies cloud the future for the traditional electric utility, but offer hope to the gas industry in boosting residential demand.
Investors apparently were paying attention in January when a Web-based analyst predicted Plug Power's stocks could gain 10,000 percent or more by 2010. Before month's end, the fuel cell manufacturer, which doesn't expect to turn a profit before 2004, saw a ninefold increase from the $16 closing day share price at its October initial public offering. That month Avista Corp.
Mergers & Acquisitions
NSP + New Century. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission OK'd the merger of Northern States Power Co. (NSP) and New Century Energies Inc. (NCE), to form Xcel Energy Inc., on condition that the new company would join the Midwest Independent System Operator. FERC Docket No. EC99-101- 000, Jan. 12, 2000, 90 FERC ¶61,020.
* Rate Pancaking. The FERC found no problem with transmission rate pancaking with the MISO condition, even though NCE subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. (SPS) belongs to the rival Southwest Power Pool.
Reliant Energy's Don D. Jordan retired from his position as chairman of the board Dec. 31. R. Steve Letbetter, who had served as president and chief executive officer since June, has been named chairman, president and chief executive officer. Jordan served as CEO of Reliant Energy and its predecessor companies for 23 years, one of the longest tenures as a chief executive among major companies in Houston and in the energy business.
Matthew C. Cordaro has been appointed president and CEO of the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator.
Do state regulators stand to learn more from their electric choice information programs than the customers they aim to reach?
What does it cost to educate an energy consumer about electric choice? Between $1.60 and $2.26, to judge by the public education campaigns in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In the first year of their information programs, these states spent a combined $103 million, funded through consumer rates. Though an impressive total budget for three public initiatives, that amount pales in comparison to the ad dollars spent by General Motors.
Studies & Reports
Year 2000 Readiness. On Jan. 11 the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) predicted a minimal effect on electric system operations from Y2K software problems. The Department of Energy, which had asked NERC to run the electric industry assessment, added that 98 percent of U.S.
Albert V. Ruggiero was elected vice president for South Jersey Industries Inc. Ruggiero also serves as senior vice president, corporate development for SJI's principal subsidiary, South Jersey Gas Co.
The Bonneville Power Administration announced four new senior vice president positions. Harvey Spigal will return to general counsel after heading BPA's transmission functions for the past two years. BPA's corporate group will be headed by Steve Wright. Paul Norman was named permanent head of the power business line. Mark Maher will head the transmission business line on an acting basis.
As utility takeovers break new ground, the FERC ponders proposed rules, perhaps already out of date.
A year ago, when U.S. Antitrust Czar Joel Klein talked of a "window of opportunity" for electric utility mergers, he didn't predict when it would close.
And it hasn't yet.
In the 12 months leading up to January 1998, when Klein had addressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission through its "Distinguished Speakers" series, only the ill-timed Primergy deal had been turned down. The next year, 1998, would prove no different.
Subsidiaries grapple with codes of conduct. Did regulators overreact?
PG&E Corp. has threatened to appeal - all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be - a $1.68 million California Public Utilities Commission fine, slapped on it for violating affiliate rules.
The fine marked the loudest shot to date in what appears to be part two in the electric and gas restructuring wars:
The Affiliate Rules Wars.
These skirmishes promise to pit independent power marketers and out-of-state utility affiliates against the affiliates of incumbents.