Electric Power news briefs, June 29

Centrica PLC ... British Gas ... Bechtel ... Reliant Energy ...Texas A&M University ... AGL Resources Inc. ... Calpine Corp. ... Constellation Power Source ... Sargent & Lundy LLC ... TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. ... National Grid USA ... Quezon power project ... Manila Electric Co.

Centrica PLC's British Gas unit, London, has selected Bechtel Enterprises unit BCN Data Systems Ltd.(BCN) to install remotely read gas and electricity meters in up to 100,000 homes. Under the 5-year contract, about 50,000 homes in the Manchester and North London areas will be the first to take part in the project this year, making it the UK's biggest pilot of such technology. Upon confirming expected customer benefits, British Gas will consider offering the service to customers across the country. British Gas sends out 70 million bills/year. A large proportion use estimated rather than actual readings, but research shows estimated bills are unpopular with customers, the company said.

Reliant Energy Inc., Houston, has licensed exclusive rights to develop and market important improvements in proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology from the Texas A&M University System. The technology was developed by the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), a state research agency and an A&M system member. The agreement grants Reliant Energy the exclusive right to assess and develop the technology's commercial potential for a variety of applications, including distributed generation, portable power, and transportation. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity through an electrochemical process that produces significantly lower emissions than conventional combustion processes. The hydrogen needed to operate a fuel cell can be produced from natural gas or other hydrocarbon fuels using well-established technologies. The TEES design will allow units to range in size from 7.5 kw, which is the capacity needed to power the average home in the Houston area, to 150 kw, which would power light commercial and industrial customers.

AGL Resources Inc., Atlanta, said it expects to exceed consensus earnings estimates by analysts for the third quarter and fiscal year 2000 as well as for fiscal year 2001. First Call reports analysts' consensus estimates for AGL Resources third quarter (ending June 30, 2000) at 21�/share, current fiscal year estimate at $1.12, and fiscal year 2001 at $1.20. The company said the improved earnings outlook is driven primarily by aggressive cost management, system modernization, and customer-base growth. It said the improvement excludes gains the company will record on the US Propane-Heritage transaction reported June 15, 2000 (OGJ Online, June 16, 2000). AGL Resources is scheduled to report third quarter earnings on July 27, 2000.

Calpine Corp.'s 500-Mw natural gas-fired Hidalgo Energy Center began commercial operation June 14. In March, Calpine reported it had purchased a 78.5% interest in the $250 million plant, located in Edinburg, Tex., on the border with Mexico. The Brownsville Public Utilities Board holds the remaining 21.5 %. The Hidalgo facility is near Calpine's 730-Mw gas-fired Magic Valley generating station, now under construction and expected to be operational in 2001. The Hidalgo power station will sell electricity into the Texas wholesale market and potentially into the growing energy markets of northern Mexico, Calpine said. The company also has secured the rights to develop, build, own, and operate a $275 million, 600-Mw natural gas-fired electricity generating facility in Riverside County, Calif., through a development agreement with Adair International Oil & Gas Inc., Houston. The $275 million Teayawa Energy Center will be sited on the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians' land through a long-term lease agreement between Calpine and the Torres Martinez. Subject to Bureau of Indian Affairs approval, construction could begin in 2001 and commercial operation in late 2003. The output will be sold into California's competitive electric power market.

University Park Energy LLC, an affiliate of Baltimore's Constellation Power Source, said it will begin site clearing this month for a $130 million, 300 Mw peaking power plant in suburban Chicago. The plant is scheduled to begin operations by the summer of 2001. Sargent & Lundy LLC, a Chicago-based engineering company, will supervise the engineering, procurement, and construction of the project.

TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., Calgary, through its subsidiary, TransCanada OSP Holdings Ltd., said it will acquire an additional 29.9% of the 560 Mw Ocean State Power plant from National Grid USA for $61 million (US), including assumption of debt, bringing TransCanada's total ownership interest in OSP, Burrillville, RI, to 100%. Subject to regulatory approval, the transaction is expected to close by September. In 1999, TransCanada's power business generated net earnings of $40 million (Can.), an increase of $11 million (Can.) compared to the previous year.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada inaugurated the Quezon power project, a 440 Mw coal-fired power facility owned by Quezon Power Ltd., a consortium composed of InterGen, a Royal Dutch/Shell-Bechtel Group Inc. venture; Ogden Energy Group Inc., an Ogden Corp. unit; Global Power Investments LP, a limited partnership consisting of GE Capital Structured Finance Group, a Soros Fund Management LLC affiliate, the International Finance Corp, an American Insurance Group affiliate, and MedioCredito Centrale; a Lend Lease Corp. of Australia affiliate; and PMR Ltd. Co., a Philippine limited partnership formed by PMR Holdings. Quezon Power is the first privately built, owned, and operated power generating facility in the Philippines and the first power station in the country to be financed without government or sovereign guarantees. Manila Electric Co., the Phillipines' largest electric distribution company, has a 25-year power purchase agreement with the facility. The Quezon power facility utilizes low-sulfur coal imported from Indonesia.

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