Electric Power news briefs, October 11

CMS Energy Corp. ... Sempra Energy Resources ... New Jersey Natural Gas Co. ... Nth Power Technologies Inc. ... Capstone Turbine Corp. ... Proton Energy Systems Inc. ... Automated Power Exchange Inc. ... St. Joseph Light & Power Co. ... UtiliCorp United Inc. ... Ingersoll-Rand Co. ... Public Service Electric & Gas Co. ... Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. ... PECO Energy Co. ... Unicom Corp. ... MCN Energy Group Inc. ... Williams ... TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.

Fitch IBCA said it has assigned a rating of 'BB+' to CMS Energy Corp.'s (CMS) $500 million 9 7/8% senior notes due 2007. All of the proceeds from the offering will initially be used to reduce outstanding bank loans, and some of the proceeds will ultimately be used to refinance $300 million of maturing senior notes, it said. Fitch said it left CMS' rating outlook remains negative, pending the successful implementation of debt reduction initiatives. Fitch also affirmed ratings of outstanding CMS securities as follows: senior notes, general term notes, and CMS X-TRAS Pass Thru Trust I notes at 'BB+'; and CMS Energy Trust I and CMS Energy Trust II convertible trust securities at 'BB-'.

Michael R. Niggli, formerly chairman and CEO of Sierra Pacific Resources, has been named president of Sempra Energy unit, Sempra Energy Resources. Niggli will be responsible for the development, construction, operation, and maintenance of US power plants, natural gas pipelines, and oil and gas production facilities. He resigned from Sierra Pacific in July.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities granted New Jersey Natural Gas Co. (NJNG) an increase in the Levelized Gas Adjustment (LGA) provision of its tariff, resulting in a 16% increase in customers' total annual bills. NJNG had filed for a rate increase with the BPU on July 17, and last week filed a motion seeking expedited action. The increase is expected to take effect by week's end. NJNGC said a typical residential home-heating customer can expect an average increase of about $148/year. The company also said it has used financial instruments to help reduce exposure to future price increases, resulting in about $20 million in annual savings.

Nth Power Technologies Inc. it has raised $120.5 million from new and existing investors for its second venture capital fund. Nth Power's first venture fund raised $63 million from strategic investors. Nth's investment interest focuses on distributed generation and storage; energy-related communications, information technology, and business services; power quality; and transmission and distribution automation. Two of Nth's portfolio companies, Capstone Turbine Corp. and Proton Energy Systems Inc., had their initial public offerings of common stock this year.

Automated Power Exchange Inc. (APX), Santa Clara, Calif., said it has closed its third financing round with $36.1 million from venture capital and corporate investors. The Series C private equity financing round was led by six investors from previous rounds who have increased their investments in APX, the company reported. They include Bechtel Enterprises Inc., San Francisco; Woodside Fund, Woodside, Calif.; FirstEnergy Corp., Akron, Ohio; Onset Ventures, Menlo Park, Calif.; Kinetic Ventures, Chevy Chase, Md.; and Technology Partners, Palo Alto, Calif. Seven energy industry and trading corporations have made first-time investments in this round, including Tokyo Electric Power Co. International BV, Amsterdam; Hydro-Quebec CapiTech Inc., Montreal; ITOCHU International Inc., New York; Nissho Iwai American Corp., NY; Nissho Iwai Corp., Tokyo; Sumitomo Corp., Tokyo; and Sumitomo Corp. of America, NY. APX exchange markets for physical and financial trading now serve 13 US states. The company said it is preparing to open exchanges in New York, Texas, and the UK. In Japan, APX and ITOCHU Corp. have agreed to jointly develop, with other partners, that country's first internet-based electric power exchange.

St. Joseph Light & Power Co. (SJLP) said UtiliCorp United Inc. has informed the company that UtiliCorp intends to conduct a further investigation of SJLP's Lake Road power plant. UtiliCorp has said the additional inquiry is intended "to obtain a better understanding" of the scope of damages caused by a June 7 fire. In recent filings with the Missouri Public Service Commission, both SJLP and UtiliCorp have requested regulators continue the review of SJLP's and UtiliCorp's proposed merger.

Ingersoll-Rand Co. (IR) said a new unit, the Independent Power Sector, will focus on identifying, developing, and marketing alternative-power and energy-management solutions, including microturbines. Over 10 years in development, the PowerWorks line of microturbines is slated to be commercially available in mid 2001. The decision is in response to the impact of energy deregulation on businesses seeking alternative means for effectively managing their power consumption, the company said. Rone H. Lewis III was named president of Independent Power.

Under a 16% increase granted by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Public Service Electric & Gas Co. said customers using about 100 therms/month of natural gas should expect their bills to rise to about $81.20/month from $70/month. PSE&G serves about1.6 million natural gas customers in New Jersey. Between December of this year and April 2001, the utility is also permitted to adjust bills up or down by 2%/month to reflect market conditions.

The Nine Mile Point Unit 1 609 Mw nuclear plant, Scriba, NY, returned to service at 10:26 pm, Tuesday said Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., a unit of Niagara Mohawk Holdings Inc. The plant is currently operating at 42% power and is expected to reach full power within a few days, the company said. The plant was taken out of service Sept. 24 for preplanned maintenance.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) has given final approval to the proposed merger of PECO Energy Co. and Unicom Corp., parent of Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), when it approved the request for the indirect transfer of licenses for both company's nuclear plants to Exelon Corp., the holding company to be formed in connection with the proposed merger, the company reported. The NRC also approved a similar request from AmerGen for the indirect transfer of PECO's interests in the licenses for its nuclear plants. The NRC action allows both PECO and ComEd to become direct, wholly owned subsidiaries of Exelon Corp. when the merger closes.

MCN Energy Group Inc. said the US Internal Revenue Service has agreed on appeal the company's two remaining coal fines plants meet the in-service deadline for purposes of claiming synthetic-fuel tax credits. This action is the result of MCN's appeal of an IRS determination that the plants were not in service prior to the July 1, 1998 deadline. MCN sold its other four coal fines plants to DTE Energy Co. in 1999. The plants were built to process fine particles of coal into briquettes that can be sold into traditional coal markets.

A unit of Williams' energy services business Wednesday closed the $540 million purchase of the NGL portion of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.'s midstream operations, Williams reported. The agreement was originally announced Aug. 3. The purchase includes about 6 bcf/day of gas processing capacity, around 225,000 b/d of NGL production capacity, an NGL pipeline system, and more than 5 million bbl of NGL storage capacity. It also includes TransCanada's interests in the Cochrane, Redwater, Empress II, Empress V, and Younger NGL and extraction facilities, as well as the West Stoddart natural gas processing plant.

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