Exec. Says Deregulation Spawning Interest In Public Power

As the price and availability of electricity looms ever larger as a topic of national debate, public power is getting a closer look from industrial and commercial power users and that growing interest in public power is occurring not just in places where you would expect it, like California, but across all regions of the country. So says Carmine Grastataro, senior vice president at RKS Research & Consulting, who sat down with NGI for a brief interview after appearing before a panel at NGI's GasMart/Power 2001 conference in Tampa, FL, last Thursday.

Grastataro noted that RKS has done a wide range of studies for clients in the energy field, ranging from a municipal utilities association in California to a client group made up of cooperatives to investor-owned utilities. "What we're doing is comparing the answers from the different customer groups," the executive said.

What are customers telling RKS when it comes to the subject of public power? " 'Well, I can go to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; I can go to Sacramento Municipal District, and know that they're going to have power. I know that their prices aren't going to fluctuate like is happening with Pacific Gas and Electric, I know that they're not going to go bankrupt'," Grastataro said in describing how surveyed customers are responding.

In the past, when customers examined prospective locations to set up shop, the question of which electric company would be serving that user took a back seat to other issues, according to the RKS executive. "Now, energy has become a big part of where are you going to locate a plant, where are you going to have an expansion and if an area is served by it -- municipal utility company or a cooperative -- then the businesses are much happier... going to that area than they were before," Grastataro told NGI.

"Any place where deregulation has occurred, there is an increase in the interest of being served by public power," the RKS executive stated. "It's not a single event, it's not a one-time thing, it's happening in lots of parts of the country, lots of different groups of customer classes -- mostly businesses -- but even on the residential market, we've seen a move toward satisfaction with public power," Grastataro told NGI.

It's happening in New England, the RKS executive noted, although he also pointed out that the region has far fewer public power utilities than in other parts of the country. "But the public power entities that are there, their customers are significantly happier than the customers served by the investor-owned utilities," Grastataro added.

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