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.
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