Electric Power news briefs, June 2

Electricit�e France ... TotalFinaElf ... Duke Energy .... TransAlta ... Merchant Energy Group of the Americas ... Madison Gas & Electric Co .... Chevron Corp. ... PG&E Corp.

In what is claimed to be the most important decentralized photovoltaic electrification program worldwide, Brazil's state of Bahia has signed a letter of intent with a consortium led by Electricit�e France and, including TotalFinaElf and Total Energie (a joint venture of EdF and TotalFinaElf), to develop a photovoltaic electrification project to supply 14,000 rural homes not connected to the electrical grid. The consortium will supply, manage, and maintain photovoltaic systems serving about 50 000 people. About100 million francs will be invested in the venture. Development and operations will be paid by the monthly tariffs. Customers will pay a monthly lump sum corresponding to the equipment used. A basic systems will consist of between one and three photovoltaic panels of 50w capable of powering several lamps and a radio set. Larger systems will power lamps, a radio set, a television, and small household electrical appliances.

Duke Energy North America, Houston, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Corp., Charlotte, N.C., reported it is on schedule to bring about 2,300 MW of new merchant generation capacity online this summer to serve peak demand in parts of Texas, the eastern US, and in New England. Low reserve margins and increasing peak capacity demand will most likely result in upward pressure on power prices in each region, the company said. Duke also said two new 640-Mw, natural gas-fired facilities are scheduled for commercial operation in time for summer 2001. Duke/Fluor Daniel, a partnership of Duke Energy and Fluor Daniel, a unit of Fluor Corp., Irvine, Calif., is responsible for the design and construction of all the facilities and will also operate Maine Independence in Veazie, Maine.

TransAlta Corp. said it has completed the acquisition of a 50% interest in Merchant Energy Group of the Americas (MEGA), Annapolis, Md., for approximately $18 million (Can.). MEGA, established in 1998 by Gener SA a Chilean-based electric generator, specializes in the commercial management of power generation assets in the US. The transaction was reported April 13. TransAlta owns and operates more than 8,000 Mw of generation plus significant transmission assets in Alberta, Canada.

Madison Gas and Electric Co., Madison,Wis., has inaugurated an 83 Mw natural gas-fired generating station, the first new generating facility for the company in more than 20 years. The plant will add about 14% more generating capacity to MGE's system. With this new generating capacity, MGE said it will have a 28% summer electric reserve margin. Since the mid-nineties, MGE's electricity demand has grown about 3% annually. The company is currently reviewing proposals for additional generation to be on line in 2002.

Chevron Corp., San Francisco, reported it is purchasing a portion of PG&E Corp.'s retail energy services business, PG&E Energy Services, for an undisclosed sum. The deal includes energy management, energy efficiency, billing and information services, and other products and services, for major commercial, industrial, and institutional customers, as well as related infrastructure assets. Chevron Products Co. Pres. Patricia Woertz said the acquisition will accelerate Chevron's entry into the "vibrant and growing" value-added services segment of the energy market. PG&E Corp., San Francisco, is exiting the retail energy services business to concentrate on wholesale generating, energy commodities trading and natural gas transmission.

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