Electric Power news briefs, May 31

Oneok Power Marketing Co., a unit of Oneok Inc., Tulsa, has begun construction on a 300-Mw natural gas-fired electricity generating plant in southwest Logan County, Okla., scheduled to begin operation in summer 2001. The plant will provide electricity to customers during summer periods of peak demand. The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority has agreed to purchase 25% of the plant's power output. The $70 million plant is located near Oneok's West Edmond natural gas storage facility as well as electric transmission lines operated by Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and marks the first venture in electricity generation for Oneok, an integrated natural gas company. Oneok Power Marketing Vice-Pres. Bill DeWare called the plant's development part of the company's "wrap-around strategy" to use existing natural gas assets and extract value from the energy commodity chain.

The Prudential Insurance Co. of America, Newark, NJ, and Enron Energy Services, a subsidiary of Enron Corp., Houston, have signed a 10-year energy management agreement for Prudential's 21 corporate-owned office buildings in seven states. Enron Energy Services will supply or manage electricity and natural gas for the facilities. The partnership will result in immediate cost savings for Prudential and will significantly reduce its exposure to future rate fluctuations, said Victor Castellano, vice-president of business services. Prudential has increasingly pursued outsourcing arrangements in order to focus on its core businesses in insurance, investments, and asset management.

Under a pilot program, about 35,000 Virginia Power Co. customers in Richmond, Ashland, and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico are the first in the commonwealth to choose an electricity supplier, more than a year before the beginning of full customer choice in Virginia. Virginia Power CEO Edgar M. Roach Jr. said the pilot program will allow a smooth transition to full competition beginning in 2002. The Virginia Electric Utility Restructuring Act of 1999 calls for customer choice and deregulation of generation. Transmission and distribution of electricity will continue to be regulated. Customer choice will be phased in between Jan. 1, 2002, and Jan. 1, 2004. The state commission directed Virginia Power, a unit of Dominion Resources Inc., and American Electric Power-Virginia, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Co., to develop pilot programs to prepare for full-scale customer choice.

Cancarb Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., said it has completed the expansion of its thermal carbon black operations in Medicine Hat, Alta. The $28 million (Can.) expansion increases Cancarb's production capacity by 25% to 45,000 tonnes/year. Waste heat generated by Cancarb's expanded operations will fuel TransCanada's associated 47-Mw cogeneration power plant, which is being constructed adjacent to the Cancarb facility. The power plant is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Electricity from the plant will be sold to the city of Medicine Hat under a 20-year agreement.

Field trials of FuelCell Energy Inc.'s Direct FuelCell technology are scheduled to begin in October at the Rhone Klinikum hospital in Bad Neustadt, Germany. The Danbury, Conn.-based company said the trials are the first in conjunction with its European partner MTU, a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG. FuelCell has been developing DFC technology for stationary power plants under the auspices of the US Department of Energy.

Datamatic.com, Richardson, Tex., reported the city of Tempe, Ariz., has ordered 8,000 Firefly automatic meter reading devices to expand the city's implementation throughout their 40,000 commercial and residential meters. The device's profiling chip stores a customer's usage history, which can be retrieved to investigate a variety of issues, including hourly consumption patterns. The city is also implementing Datamatic.com's Roadrunner mobile drive-by technology.

Pepco Energy Services Inc., Washington, DC, has acquired Substation Test Co., Forrestville, Md., a privately held company that maintains and tests components of power distribution systems for large commercial, industrial and institutional customers. Substation Test is the second electrical testing and maintenance company acquired by Pepco Energy Services, a wholly owned unit of Potomac Electric Power Co. MET Electrical Testing, acquired in December 1998, provides similar services. In 1999, Pepco Services was awarded more than $500 million in energy services contracts and has completed energy-efficiency projects from Connecticut to North Carolina.

SmartEnergy.com, Woburn, Mass., has reached an agreement with Essential.com, Burlington, Mass., to offer Essential.com's customers electricity services in New York City and the Westchester County, NY, area. The two companies also said they are offering a fixed-rate plan that will allow customers to lock in a price before projected electricity rate increases take place this summer. There is no monthly service fee for the fixed-rate plan, and new customers will receive 1 month of free electricity, limited to $50. The SmartEnergy.com and Essential.com relationship coincides with the New York State Public Service Commission's recent announcement to greatly expand its retail choice program that allows New York customers to shop for power.

Unitil Corp., Hampton, NH, reported that Usource, its internet-based energy auction service, has executed its first aggregated energy transaction for a municipality�the village of Ilion, NY. Through Usource, Ilion has procured natural gas supply for roughly 1,000 residential customers and 30 commercial and industrial customers. Launched in mid-1999, Usource allows large commercial and industrial customers and aggregators to post their energy needs on the internet for over 50 prequalified suppliers to evaluate and bid. If the supplier offers a price the buyer wants and the supplier meets the buyer's terms and conditions, the deal is done. Unitil is a public utility holding company with subsidiaries providing electric service in New Hampshire, electric and gas service in Massachusetts, and energy services throughout the Northeast.

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