Electric Power news briefs, Mar. 13

El Paso Corp. ... AES NewEnergy Inc. ... Aquila Inc. ... SG Resources of Houston Inc. .... NCNG ... PPL Corp. ... TECO Energy Inc. ... Nexus Energyguide ... UtilityGuide.com ... Piedmont Natural Gas Co. ... Wisconsin Electric Power Co. ... BP ... Pmax Portfolio Management GMBH ... Arizona Public Service Co. ... ABB ... PG&E National Energy Group ... Wisconsin Energy Corp. ... Calpine Corp.

El Paso Corp. said the California Energy Commission approved Phase 1 of the 51 Mw gas-fired United Golden Gate power project at the San Francisco International Airport, subject to agreements to be ratified by the city and county of San Francisco. Phase 2, which El Paso intends to move into the permitting stage as quickly as practical, it said, will be a 500 Mw unit. The project is the first to be approved on a 'fast track'' under AB 970, which called for expediting the permitting process associated with siting and implementing new power plants in California.

AES NewEnergy Inc., a unit of AES Corp., is preparing for the anticipated strain on the electricity grid in New York City with a program that pays companies to conserve energy, said Vice-Pres. Brian Hayduk. AES NewEnergy is enrolling New York area companies in programs sponsored by the Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland (PJM) Interconnection and the New York Independent System Operator (ISO). When a system "emergency" is declared by an ISO, AES NewEnergy will contact the companies in the pool to determine if they would like to participate. A company in the program that sheds 1 Mw of load, or has 1 Mw of backup generation can earn $2,000/event or more.

Aquila Inc., a unit of UtiliCorp United Inc., has agreed to buy Houston Energy Center, a new gas salt cavern storage project in Liberty County, Tex., from SG Resources of Houston Inc., SG Resources reported. The sale price was not disclosed. It is estimated that the storage facility will become operational in 2002, and by 2004, will be built out to 12 bcf of leasable capacity. It will have direct interconnections to four interstate and three intrastate pipelines. The facility is designed so that 100% of its inventory can be delivered in 10 days.

NCNG, a unit of Progess Energy Inc., said it filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reduce customer gas rates 19% to 95�/therm effective Apr. 1. The average household uses about 800 therms/year. In January, NCNG announced it would give a one-time credit to its customers beginning Feb. 6. The credit came from a federal ruling against three pipeline companies that deliver gas to NCNG which were found to have overcharged NCNG $2.9 million for transportation costs.

Operators shut down the Unit 2 reactor at PPL Corp.'s Susquehanna nuclear plant near Berwick, Pa., to begin the unit's 10th planned refueling and inspection outage since it began commercial operation in 1985. About 40% of the unit's uranium fuel will be replaced during the outage, which will enable Unit 2 to operate continuously for 24 months.

TECO Energy Inc. said it completed the public offering of 8.6 million new common shares, including an overallotment of 1.1 million shares, which the underwriters exercised their option to purchase. Net proceeds from the offering and the overallotment totaled $232 million. The total offering was priced at $27.75/share.

Nexus Energyguide, Wellesley, Mass., the operator of ENERGYguide.com, said it has purchased the UtilityGuide.com web site. With the purchase, Nexus Energyguide has acquired UtilityGuide's content, functionality, and other intellectual property. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both sites allow consumers to compare and shop for energy and other products and services.

Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Charlotte, NC, said it filed a motion with regulators to lower gas rates 7% effective Apr. 1. Piedmont's residential rates will decline to 0.97�/therm from $1.04/therm. The company's benchmark wholesale cost of gas included in its rates will be reduced to $5.95/dekatherm in April from $6.65/dekatherm in January. Even with the recent decline, the company said, wholesale gas costs still remain more than double those of 1 year ago.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) approved Wisconsin Electric Power Co.'s request to build and load additional dry storage containers for used fuel at the company's 1,022 Mw Point Beach nuclear plant. The company requested regulators' permission for enough containers, not to exceed 36, to allow the plant's two generating units to continue operating through the end of their licenses, which expire in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

The UK's BP said it will market electricity to business customers in Germany and will take a 51% stake in Pmax Portfolio Management GMBH, Hamburg, a recently formed German electricity marketing company. It said the move is part of a pan-European strategy to capture growing opportunities in liberalizing energy markets. The company will market electricity to medium to large customers including local authorities across Germany, expanding to cover other countries in northern Europe.

Arizona Public Service Co. has selected a unit of the ABB Group, Wickliffe, Ohio, for a $1.8 million turnkey contract to upgrade control systems at several units of the West Phoenix power station, ABB said. The control system upgrade includes a distributed control system and replacement of wiring on all combined cycle units.

A California Energy Commission committee has recommended approval of the 510 Mw combined cycle gas-fired Otay Mesa generating plant near San Diego, subject to the status of the proposed North Baja pipeline application pending with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The $350 million project being developed by the PG&E National Energy Group, a unit of PG&E Corp., is expected to be completed in 2003.

Fitch IBCA said it revised the rating outlook for Wisconsin Energy Corp. (WEC) and Wisconsin Energy Capital Corp. from stable to negative. The ratings agency attributed the change to the current and forecasted high leverage and weak credit protection measures at WEC relative to the 'A+' rating category. WEC's credit measures for 2000 show the impact of the $1.2 billion acquisition by WEC of Wicor, the parent holding company of Wisconsin Gas, which was initially funded in cash with increased commercial paper borrowings. Over the next several years, WEC plans to increase capital spending for infrastructure and power generation investments in Wisconsin. Consequently, consolidated leverage is not expected to decline to the former low level, Fitch said.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Calpine Corp. have signed a 2-month agreement under which Calpine is supplying DWR with up to the full electric output from its 555 Mw South Point energy center during plant testing, the company reported. Calpine will continue service through May 15 in accordance with existing transmission agreements. The facility is located at the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, near the California/Arizona border. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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