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North America – Electric Power New Briefs

Reliant Energy Inc., Houston, Tuesday said it has begun construction on the 520 Mw, $800 million Seward power plant in East Wheatfield Township, Pa., the first major coal-fired power plant to be built in Pennsylvania in 20 years. The facility will use a clean-coal technology called circulating fluidized bed (CFB) to burn waste coal. When completed in 2004, the plant will replace an 80-year-old, 200 Mw facility that will be closed in late 2003. Reliant said it will break ground on an 800 Mw gas-fired facility in Straban Township.

Duke Energy Field Services, a unit of Duke Energy Corp., Charlotte, NC, and BP America Inc., a unit of BP PLC, reported signing a 12-year agreement to expand gathering and processing infrastructure and services to accommodate BP’s Greater Green River Basin drilling program in Wamsutter, Wyo. The agreement dedicates to Duke gas produced by BP within nine townships in the Bitter Creek and Laney Wash areas on the western flank of Wamsutter field where BP expects to drill more than 300 new gas wells. Over the 12-year period, gas production rates are currently estimated to peak at 100 MMcfd.

EP Power Finance LLC, an indirect subsidiary of El Paso Corp., Houston, said the 25 Mw biomass-fueled Madera power plant near Fresno, Calif., has begun operations 2 weeks ahead of schedule. EP Power Finance provided funding to Madera Power, a subsidiary of Energy Products of Idaho, Coeur d’Alene, Ida., enabling the company to acquire and refurbish the dormant power plant. Power generated by the Madera plant is being sold into the wholesale market.

Illinois State University, Normal, Ill., has awarded a unit of CMS Energy Corp., Dearborn, Mich., a 2-year contract to manage its natural gas supplies. Under the contract, CMS will provide ISU with a structured gas commodity management and procurement approach designed to minimize ISU’s natural gas costs and market risks. ISU uses an estimated 700 MMcf/year. The agreement can be extended up to 10 years by mutual consent.

Unitil Corp., Hampton, NH, said its wholly owned subsidiaries, Unitil/Concord Electric Co. and Unitil/Exeter & Hampton Electric Co., filed for a 15% rate decrease with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. The proposed rate decreases would take effect Aug. 1. The rate decreases are the result of lower proposed fuel and purchased power adjustments.

A unit of Williams, Tulsa, Okla., reported it is holding a binding open season June 15-29 for shippers interested in annual incremental firm natural gas transportation service on the proposed Western Frontier pipeline. Western Frontier Pipeline LLC, a unit of Williams Gas Pipeline, proposes to construct 400 miles of 30-in. diameter pipeline and 15,000 hp of compression designed to transport up to 540,000 dekatherms/day from the Cheyenne Hub in northeastern Colorado to Williams’ Central pipeline system in southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, and various markets along the newly proposed pipeline.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co., Merrillville, Ind., said it filed testimony with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission defending itself against an investigation into the company’s current base electric rates. The company said rates should be raised 24% to reflect a fair return on the company’s electric generation and delivery systems. It said base rates have not changed since 1987.

South Carolina Pipeline Corp. (SCPC), a unit of SCANA Corp., Columbia, SC, reported it will petition the Public Service Commission (PSC) this year to change the way its customers receive and pay for service on its natural gas pipeline system. If approved by the PSC, the company would convert to an open-access transportation-only system, primarily on a firm basis, with cost-of-service rates. Customers would secure their own gas supplies and upstream transportation services as well as holding capacity on SCPC’s system. Because the current system serves many industrial users with interruptible service and the new structure will focus on firm service, SCPC is soliciting service requirements for firm transportation capacity from its customers through July 16.

Customers of Clark Public Utilities, Clark County, Wash., can now receive and pay bills on line, said Billserv Inc., San Antonio, Tex. The system is available to Clark customers directly through the company’s own Web site, or through any of the nearly 300 bill paying Web sites available through CheckFree, a billing consolidator.

AES Corp., Arlington, Va., said AES Kelanitissa (Private) Ltd. signed agreements June 15 with the Asian Development Bank and ANZ Investment Bank, the investment banking arm of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, for the financing of a $104 million, 163 Mw combined cycle diesel-fired power plant in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Funding is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions. The electricity will be sold to the Ceylon Electricity Board under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Ceylon Petroleum Corp., a government corporation, will supply low sulfur diesel fuel for the term of the contract.

A unit of WPS Resources Corp. Green Bay, Wis., will purchase 150 Mw from SkyGen Energy LLC’s proposed Arpin energy center, WPS reported. SkyGen is a subsidiary of Calpine Corp., San Jose, Calif. The energy will be sold by contract and into the spot market. Separately, a California Energy Commission committee recommended approval of Calpine’s proposed 600 Mw gas-fired Metcalf energy center in south San Jose. The committee recommended various mitigation measures.

Automated Power Exchange Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., said trading has begun at the APX Palo Verde Market for power to be delivered in Arizona and into neighboring western states. After a trade is completed in the APX Palo Verde Market, buyers and sellers make their own arrangements for transmission, tagging, and invoicing. APX said it provides each participating organization with a daily summary of trades on line to facilitate the counterparty invoicing process.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved a customer surcharge, which will raise about $1 million to fund conservation programs. Customers of Avista Utilities, a unit of Avista Corp. Spokane, Wash., will see their monthly power bills go up by about 60à‚¢/month to fund energy efficiency programs, the commission said. The company estimated it will reduce demand 2.5 million kw-hr through energy efficiency programs.

The Overseas Private Investment Corp. said it approved up to $200 million in political risk insurance for AES Sirocco Ltd., a unit of AES Corp., Arlington, Va., to build a 280 Mw power plant on nine barges near Lagos, Nigeria. The insurance provides currency inconvertibility, expropriation, and political violence coverage with respect to AESS’s investment in AES Nigeria Barge Ltd., which will own and operate the plant.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Tuesday issued for comment staff-proposed rules for competitive retail natural gas service and its providers. Initial comments must be filed with the Commission by July 10, and reply comments must be filed by July 24. Additionally, the commission will hold a technical conference on June 29 to give interested parties an opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with the staff.