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Concept of Umbrella Energy Group Gets Lukewarm Response

Concept of Umbrella Energy Group Gets Lukewarm Response

Initial reaction to the idea of consolidating the major Washington D.C.-based energy trade groups under one umbrella seems to be running from cold to warm, with some outright opposed to it and others at least willing to discuss it.

Jerald Halvorsen, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), broached the subject two weeks ago as a way for natural gas and electric associations to deal with the loss of members resulting from mergers within the industries.

He said he planned to talk with the heads of the American Gas Association (AGA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA) and possibly the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) within the next few weeks about consolidating the energy trade groups. Trade groups representing gas producers wouldn't be part of any merger talks, Halvorsen said.

"Who appointed him [Halvorsen] the ambassador of energy?" asked one industry source. "He's not in a position of bargaining to make this whole thing happen. I think if there's any move to merge associations, it would be between two associations."

The associations are reacting to Halvorsen's proposal diplomatically for the record, but "behind closed doors" there's little support for it, the source noted. "I think it's going over horribly" with the energy trade groups.

AGA, which represents gas distributors, is not looking to consolidate. "Any merger discussions would have to come from our own members, and they're not pushing for [them]. They're satisfied with an independent AGA," said spokeswoman Daphne Magnuson. That point was driven home last year when rumors were rampant that AGA might merge with EEI, she noted.

"I'm always willing to talk," said Lynne Church, EPSA's executive director, but she believes such discussions may be a bit "premature" at this stage in the electric restructuring process. "...I don't think the industry has shaken out [enough] to know who will be the players" on the regulated and unregulated sides of the energy business, she told NGI. "It's unclear what the industry is going to look like....." The EPSA is a national trade group for competitive power suppliers.

The NEI, a trade group representing owners and operators of nuclear power generation facilities, declined to take a position, as did the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

As for merging the energy associations, Halvorsen sees three possibilities: combining all of these electric and gas associations under one roof; creating two associations - one for regulated energy companies and the other for unregulated companies; or creating three associations - one for energy distribution, another for energy generation and a third for energy transmission.

Susan Parker

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