San Diego-based Sempra Energy’s two major utilities are taking anew attitude toward the energy service providers in California,treating them as customers rather than competitors under thecorporate holding company’s new strategy to capture an increasingshare of developing retail energy markets nationally. The utilitieswill concentrate on wires and pipes distribution, while nonutilityaffiliates go after the energy services markets.

“It will also create opportunities for greater throughput andnew customer services (for the utilities),” employees of the twoutilities, Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas and Electric,were told in an internal newsletter for all employees.

Included in the utilities’ new outreach to ESPs will be moreservices designed for them as “customers” and also a greater pushto have utility retail customers join aggregators for their gasservices under the state’s nine-year program allowing smallcustomers to combine their loads to leverage their buying powerfrom third-party nonutility suppliers.

“If ESPs can create new service packages that make natural gasmore attractive and increase our throughput, then [the utility]meets its primary goal of maximizing the use of its system,”SoCalGas’ Lee Stewart, president of energy transportation services,told employees.

Among the new services SoCalGas is considering for ESPs arecustomized billing, consumer education and e-commerce options. Atthe same time, the Sempra utilities, which are in the process ofmerging operations (although not legally combining), plan to expandservices to the utility distribution customers, including themaintenance and repair of customers’ pipelines and replacement ofparts on natural gas-fired equipment.

By year-end, Sempra plans to consolidate the management of itstwo utilities in one business unit under a common management teamthat will “create a new utility model for California and thenation….” It will be an integration rather than a legal mergerbecause the latter would take too much time.

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