Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.‘s (APUC) regulated distribution utility, Liberty Utilities, has closed its $285 million acquisition of Granite State Electric Co. and EnergyNorth Natural Gas Inc. Ontario-based APUC announced in December 2010 that it would buy the New Hampshire-based businesses from National Grid (see Daily GPI, Dec. 10, 2010) and the deal received final state regulatory approval in May. The gas utility serves 87,000 customers in five counties and 30 communities across the state. Its load and customer count have shown a consistent 1.6% compounded annual growth over the past 10 years, APUC said. The electric distribution company serves 43,000 customers. Last year Liberty said it would pay about $124 million for Atmos Energy Corp.‘s regulated gas distribution assets in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois (see Daily GPI, May 16, 2011). That deal has received all necessary federal and state regulatory approvals and is expected to close by Aug. 1, APUC said.

Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities filed with state regulatory commissions in both Idaho and Washington state to suspend the combination utility’s gas energy efficiency programs. The combination of low wholesale gas prices and abundant supplies has diminished the cost-effectiveness of the programs, Avista told the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). If approved by the respective PUC and WUTC, the programs will be suspended Sept. 1, Avista said. Avista’s electric energy efficiency rebates and incentive programs will continue. Separately, as Avista made its filing, in California another combination utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., was filing for $433 million annually for energy efficiency programs over the next two years (2013-2014).

Separate from ongoing cases involving the safety of its natural gas system and a $2.2 billion plan to upgrade it, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Monday notified state regulators it intends later this year to file a multi-billion-dollar general rate case to be effective in 2014. Totaling more than $2 billion in increases to be spread over three years (2014-2016), PG&E said it needs the added revenues to hire up to 2,200 additional employees and upgrade both its gas and electric systems. The San Francisco-based combination utility submitted its notice of intent to file the general rate case with the California Public Utilities Commission, where it already has three separate proceedings ongoing regarding the San Bruno gas transmission pipeline rupture and explosion nearly two years ago. PG&E said the proposed increase would raise residential gas utility bills an average of nearly $7/month and electric bills nearly $5/month. PG&E officials are tying a lot of the added revenue needs to safety; consumer advocates expressed initial skepticism.

New York City-based independent power generator Perennial Power Holdings has told the Oregon Department of Energy it wants to develop a 412 MW natural gas-fired electric generation plant on a 20-acre site adjacent to the existing 474 MW Hermiston power plant in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge area, which has been a center for wind power development. The proposed plant would be a source of balancing and firming power. The next major step is for state energy officials to issue a project order. The “Wind Chaser” power plant project is a joint venture of Perennial parent company Sumitomo Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. of America.

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