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Sempra to Provide Power To Utility.com Customers

Sempra to Provide Power To Utility.com Customers

Utility.com has signed up Sempra Energy Trading to become the preferred wholesale natural gas provider behind the growing retail energy and communications website.

Utility.com, which bills itself as the "world's first Internet utility company," signed with Southern Company Energy Marketing in March to provide wholesale power for the site. (See NGI, April 3) Last month it announced its first two partners in the retail market, FirstEnergy and Kansas City Power & Light. (See NGI, May 1)

Through its eUtilities Program, Utility.com is partnering with traditional utility companies to offer services online, including the individual services provided by a traditional utility and add-ons such as customer enrollments, service, bill presentation, payment collection, e-mail statements and online bill storage. Along with energy, the program will offer long distance, DSL, voice-over-Internet protocol and dial-up Internet access.

"The website is zip code driven," said Chris King, CEO of Utility.com. "A customer would go to our website and enter his/her zip code, taking the customer to a list of services offered for that area. It would include anything from electricity service, to an entire package including electric, gas, phone, Internet access and others." King said the goal of the eUtilities program is to sign enough utilities so that Utility.com has a presence in every state.

In April Utility.com said it had completed its second round of venture financing, raising $30 million from leading Internet and energy investors. The deal was led by Trident Capital and included as new investors Sempra and Southern along with Kinetic Ventures and Natural Gas Partners. Idealab! (cq), which creates and operates Internet businesses, was among the founders of Utility.com. The site will be picking up some stiff competition soon. Enron, with the help of AOL and IBM, announced earlier this week it was launching a national retail energy transaction website, starting in August in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. (See story, this issue)

Meanwhile, Sempra's regulated subsidiary Southern California Gas is selling its interest in one of the first online retail web sites, energymarketplace.com, which was set up in the fall of 1997. Excelergy has taken over operating the site, which has been renamed www.echoicenet.com, and is seeking to purchase SoCal's interest.

Ellen Beswick

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