Before the industry can tap into the Web's full potential, it needs to remove some roadblocks - without regulating itself into a corner.
Everyone involved in energy recognizes that deregulation is driving major changes in how the industry operates. What some may not recognize is that the evolution of e-commerce is compelling even greater changes in the way energy is marketed and purchased in both wholesale and retail markets.
While Texas ponders how best to help rural co-ops move to electric competition, some interests question whether bailouts are needed at all.
Big Fish, Little Fish
"The co-ops are like a school of little fish, all right? And there's a school of big fish out there who are going through and taking munches, okay? And if the little fish aren't protected, the big fish will eat them."
- Former ERCOT representative, on the fate of Texas co-ops
"Lots of co-ops that serve very rural remote areas [may] not see a lot of difference¼.
They see leasing and dark fiber as "no-risk" ventures, with more upside potential.
Few seem ready to predict when demand might wane for rights-of-way for long-haul telecommunications. The consensus suggests a long-lived market - with interstate natural gas pipelines primed to take advantage. The question seems not so much whether to dive in, but how deeply to get involved.
Should pipelines stick to leasing rights-of-way to carriers? Or should they lay fiber and perhaps offer their own long-haul services?
Some partners turn to the quick sale to raise capital and dress up performance.
Analysts cite several reasons why energy companies might wish to execute a spin-off:
* To cover a failed merger,
* To raise cheap capital, or
* To boost valuation of a diversified company.
In fact, many newly merged energy companies will fit into this last category. No longer just power companies, they now own merchant generation, transmission, pipelines and telecommunications assets.
Utility restructuring seems to prompt more lawsuits by customers.
In Chicago, Commonwealth Edison Co. settles a class action lawsuit for a heat-wave outage, paying $2.5 million for items including "food spoilage," to customers served by certain city substations. In California, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spends $8.3 million to resolve 98 percent of some 6,600 outage-related claims.
Vicky A. Bailey, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has left the FERC to serve as president of Cinergy Corp.'s PSI Energy Inc. unit in Indiana. Bailey served on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission before joining FERC in 1993.
Janet Gail Besser, chair of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy for two years and a board member since 1995, resigned in December. She was to join consultant Lexecon Inc. in March.
SEMCO ENERGY Inc. named Barrett Hatches president of ENSTAR Natural Gas Co. He succeeds Richard Barnes.
How to justify green power without apologizing for the price.
Policymakers have shown considerable interest in the concept of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and how it might affect the cost of energy.
The RPS would require electricity providers to include a small amount of renewables-based power - typically less than 3 percent or 4 percent - in their resource mix.