State Utilities File to Become ISOs Several U.S. states are looking to form independent system operators (ISOs), which would open transmission access to all buyers and sellers and make less expensive electricity readily available to customers.

Texas utilities, including Houston Lighting & Power Co., Houston, Texas, U.S., and more than 20 municipal utilities, cooperatives and investor-owned utilities, filed last month with state commissioners to become an ISO.

In the Midwest, eight electric utilities have submitted an ISO proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Under the proposal, the goal of the ISO is to ensure the integrity of the integrated transmission grid in the upper Midwest states while providing equitable access to transmission owners and dependent users. Although individual utilities will retain ownership and physical control of their transmission systems, the ISO plan calls for fair access and equal representation of transmission owners and users regardless of size.

The area served by their joint transmission systems includes portions of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In April, the FERC endorsed the principles of an ISO in open access Order No. 888. In its Environmental Impact Statement, the FERC found that open transmission system access would save energy consumers US$3.8 billion to US$5.4 billion annually.

Water Agencies Form Utility Service Agency Members of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) have formed a new utility service agency to pool their energy demands and boost purchasing power. Meeting in Sacramento, California, U.S., 49 public water agencies formally established the ACWA-Utility Service Agency, a joint power agency. The ACWA-USA will serve as an umbrella agency under which members can form subgroups that act as wholesale buyers and sellers of electricity, natural gas, energy efficiency services, telecommunications and other utility functions. The ACWA-USA is believed to be the first statewide agency formed to facilitate opportunities for public water agencies to buy and sell utility services. The agency's first move will be to solicit proposals from suppliers and providers of natural gas and telecommunications services. The group expects to seek proposals for electric power later this summer. About 382 of ACWA's 420 public water agency members purchase power from private utilities.

International Consortium Buys Rio de Janeiro Utility An international consortium announced in May that it paid US$2 billion to buy a controlling interest in Servicos de El‚tricidade SA (Light), the electric utility serving Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil's largest privatization to date. The consortium members included a unit of Houston Industries Inc., Houston, Texas, U.S.; Electricit‚ de France, Paris, France; AES Corp., Arlington, Virginia, U.S.; CSN Brazilian Industrial Group and BNDES, a major Brazilian financial institution. The group bought 524,000 shares of Light, which is 50% plus one share. The Brazilian government will retain the remainder of the stock. The purchase, made in an auction at the Rio de Janeiro stock exchange, was to be financed through a combination of debt and equity, Houston Industries said in a statement. Light, which has about 2.7 million customers, is the second Brazilian utility to be sold under a government program to privatize the power industry. Earlier, the city of Espirito Santo's Escelsa utility was sold.

ABB Wins Contracts In Baltic States ABB Network Partner AB, Sweden, will deliver computerized control and protection systems for two 110-kV substations, one at Ropazi in Latvia and the other at Prienai in Lithuania. The customers are Latvenergo in Latvia and Lietuvos Energija in Lithuania, which are responsible for the transmission networks in their countries. The total value of these two contracts is approximately US$1.5 million (SEK 10 million). Delivery is scheduled to take place in early 1997.

Midlands Electricity Takeover Approved The United Kingdom government approved Avon Energy Partner's agreed bid of US$2.61 billion (œ1.73 billion) for Midlands Electricity Plc. last month. Avon Energy is a joint venture between General Public Utilities, Parsippany, New Jersey, U.S., and CINergy, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.