Electric Power news briefs, October 12

Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative ... Reliant Energy Inc. ... BayCorp Holdings Ltd. ... Northeast Utilities ... Piedmont Natural Gas Co. ... Atmos Energy Corp. ... Alabama Power Co. ... Eni SPA ... Delta Power Co. ... John Hancock Life Insurance Co. ... Austin Energy ... Comverge Technologies ... Sempra Energy International ... Sodigas Pampeana ... Sodigas Sur ... PJM Interconnection LLC ... ATCO Gas ... Enbridge Gas New Brunswick ... WPS Energy Services Inc. ... Algonquin Gas Transmission

Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative, Rockwall, Tex., has signed a $300 million contract with Reliant Energy Wholesale Group, an unregulated unit of Reliant Energy Inc., Reliant said Thursday. The contract includes providing Rayburn's five area distribution cooperatives' customers with more than 450 Mw of firm power; ancillary, and energy services; plus risk-management products, said Joe Bob Perkins, Reliant Energy Wholesale Group president and chief operating officer. The cooperatives include Fannin County Electric Cooperative, FEC Electric Cooperative, Grayson-Collin Electric Cooperative, Lamar County Electric Cooperative, and Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative.

BayCorp Holdings Ltd., Portsmouth, NH, said it has reached an agreement with Northeast Utilities (NU) under which BayCorp's generating subsidiaries, Great Bay Power and Little Bay Power, will join with NU in the sale of their ownership interests in the Seabrook nuclear power plant. Great Bay also agreed to withdraw its appeal of the restructuring agreement for deregulation in New Hampshire between NU and the state of New Hampshire. Great Bay's withdrawal of its appeal avoids a potential lengthy court battle and should help move deregulation forward in New Hampshire, BayCorp said. Under the agreement, the two BayCorp subsidiaries will include their aggregate 15% ownership share, or about 174 megawatts, in the upcoming auction of NU's subsidiaries' shares of the plant called for under the settlement agreement reached last year with the state of New Hampshire. NU is the largest owner and is the operator of Seabrook. Under the agreement, BayCorp will receive the sales price established by the auction process, subject to certain conditions. Subject to regulatory approval, the auction is expected to begin in the first half of 2001 with a closing expected in late 2001 or early 2002.

Piedmont Natural Gas Co. said it has signed an agreement to purchase the natural gas distribution system serving Gaffney, SC, from Atmos Energy Corp. for about $5.8 million. Atmos operates its United Cities Gas Co. subsidiary in the Gaffney area. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of the year.

Alabama Power Co., a unit of Southern Co., said it has begun the relicensing process for nine hydroelectric dams producing 1,164 Mw of power on the Coosa and Warrior rivers. The federal licenses for Alabama Power's Warrior and Coosa river dams expire in 2007. The Warrior River dams are Smith and Bankhead. The Coosa River dams are Weiss, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, Mitchell, Bouldin, and Jordan. To continue operating the dams, Alabama Power must file applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for all the developments by June 30, 2005.

Italy's Eni SPA said its photovoltaic unit has signed an agreement to acquire a stake in Australia's Pacific Solar, which is conducting research and development of polycrystalline film technology or "thin film." ENI said it hopes for a quick definition by the government of the rules for implementing a program aimed at installing 10,000 photovoltaic systems or 50 Mw on Italian rooftops.

A partnership of Delta Power Co. and John Hancock Life Insurance Co. have reached a deal to buy the interests held by Columbia Energy Group unit Columbia Electric in four power plants for an undisclosed amount, Columbia reported. The agreement include interests in the 550 Mw Gregory cogeneration project, Corpus Christi, Tex.; a 117 Mw cogeneration plant near Pedricktown, NJ; a 47 Mw cogeneration project near Vineland, NJ, and an 85 Mw cogeneration facility, Rumford, Me.

Austin Energy, Austin, Tex., will purchase an additional $1.53 million worth of Superstats programmable thermostats from Comverge Technologies, a unit of Data Systems & Software Inc., Comverge reported. The contract includes an option to purchase an additional $4.6 million worth of Superstats over the next 3 years. Jointly developed by Comverge and Honeywell International Inc., the Superstat thermostat can be remotely directed to reduce air conditioning use via a radio signal from the utility. During peak load periods, Austin Energy will be able to send a radio frequency signal to the thermostat to curtail energy use by the air conditioner. The hot water heater switches will also be controlled via radio signal.

Sempra Energy International, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, said it has completed the previously reported purchase of Dominion Resource Inc.'s natural gas and electricity assets in Argentina for $145 million in cash. Sempra Energy International acquired an additional 21.5% interest in Sodigas Pampeana and Sodigas Sur, holding companies that control Camuzzi Gas Pampeana SA, and Camuzzi Gas del Sur SA, raising its total stake to 43%. Separately, Sempra Energy International sold its 25% stake in BAECO, a holding company with a controlling interest in electric company Empresa Distribuidora de Energia Atlantica SA (EDEA), to Camuzzi Argentina for an undisclosed amount. Sempra Energy International and Camuzzi Argentina are now the sole partners in the Sodigas companies, with 43%and 57% of the shares, respectively.

PJM Interconnection LLC (PJM), and the nine PJM transmission owners have jointly filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) their Order 2000 Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) compliance report. the companies said the filing seeks to win FERC certification of PJM as an RTO and approval of the PJM transmission owners' rate proposal. They said the proposal will expedite needed facilities determined by PJM's coordinated transmission planning process. The filing describes a plan to create a seamless northeastern marketplace in conjunction with New York Independent System Operator, ISO-New England, Ontario Independent Electricity Market, and Allegheny Power, PJM said. PJM transmission owners include Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Conectiv Power Delivery, GPU Energy, PECO Energy Co., PPL Electric Utilities Corp., Potomac Electric Power Co., Public Service Electric & Gas Co., UGI Utilities Inc., and Allegheny Electric Cooperative.

ATCO Gas said it has applied to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board for the sixth in a series of rate reductions and refunds for ATCO Gas customers. ATCO said it asked the board to reduce delivery charges for its customers living north of and including the city of Red Deer. If approved, monthly fixed charges will drop from $13.80 (Can.) to $11.87, and variable charge will drop from $1.196 to $1.029/gigajoule, effective Jan. 1, 2001.

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick (EGNB), Frederickton, NB, and WPS Energy Services Inc. said they have entered into a 3-year agreement under which WPS Energy Services will take assignment of EGNB's transportation capacity on Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline. With the transportation capacity, WPS Energy Services will provide competitive physical gas supply commodity and other services to end-use customers and natural gas marketers in New Brunswick. EGNB is the operator of New Brunswick's general natural gas distribution franchise. As the distributor, EGNB provides natural gas distribution service and is not involved in the sale of natural gas.

Algonquin Gas Transmission Co., a unit of Duke Energy Gas Transmission and Duke Energy Corp., filed on Oct. 10 an application seeking Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval to construct the HubLine project, an offshore natural gas pipeline extending from Beverly to Weymouth, Mass. HubLine will connect the existing Algonquin pipeline system with the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline allowing transportation of natural gas from offshore Nova Scotia, Canada, to markets in the US Northeast. The proposed HubLine project will involve construction of about 30 miles of 24-in. mainline pipeline and about 5 miles of 16-in. lateral pipeline to Deer Island in Boston Harbor.

Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLC said it filed an application Oct. 10 seeking Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval to construct Phase III of the natural gas pipeline project. The expansion would extend the existing Maritimes system in Methuen, Mass., to Beverly, Mass., where it would interconnect with Algonquin Gas Transmission Co.'s proposed HubLine project. Maritimes & Northeast, a 650-mile natural gas pipeline traversing Atlantic Canada and the US Northeast, is owned by affiliates of Duke Energy Corp., Westcoast Energy Inc., ExxonMobil Corp. and NS Power Holdings Inc.

U.S. Energy Systems Inc. and Cinergy Solutions Inc., an affiliate of Cinergy Corp., reported Cinergy Solutions has purchased a 7.7% stake in U.S. Energy Systems, an independent power producer, for $3.5 million, the companies reported. The companies also said they have formed a joint venture to provide cogeneration and energy services. U.S. Energy develops, owns, and operates cogeneration power plants and renewable energy plants in the US and offers a variety of environmental services.

The Advanced Technology Program Office of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded ITN Energy Systems Inc., in partnership with UniSource Energy Corp., an initial $2 million contract for integrated planar solid oxide fuel cell stack development. The 3-year program includes additional investment for a total estimated project budget of $4 million. The solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) being developed by ITN are intended to operate at lower temperatures than other varieties of fuel cells and offer the potential to use natural gas, liquid propane, gasoline, kerosene, or diesel fuel rather than pure hydrogen. The fuel cell program will develop and demonstrate a 1 kw reduced temperature, sealed SOFC stack.

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