News Watch – Not your Father’s utility industry

This won’t be a regular UFTO feature, but I was awestruck by a couple of headlines today, and thought I’d pass along a comment. After the wild “dot com” style run up of a several fuel cell stocks lately (you know the drill — no earnings, huge valuations), another couple of amazing stories are breaking.

Gates Buys 5% of Avista

Avista’s stock has more than doubled this week, after it was announced that Bill Gates had taken a 5% stake in the company. It’s been trading in the mid to high teens for the last year, dropping below 15 at the beginning of January. Today it closed at 47. Of course, they were also benefiting from the fuel cell excitement, with their Avista Labs effort in PEM.

Sierra Pacific in Huge Telecom Deal

The other story was out late Friday in an article in Infoworld: a huge alliance of Hewlett Packard, Oracle, TelecommUnity Systems, and — are you ready for this — Sierra Pacific Power! The article claims that the utility is using $1/2 billion from the $1.6 billion sale of power plants to provide their stake in this huge plan to put fiber to the home and supply voice, data, and television services. (Recall that Sierra Pacific Power just merged with Nevada Power last July, and the new company is now buying Portland General Electric from Enron.)

The article was posted 6 pm Pacific time Friday, and I found it at

It will be very interesting to see how the companies respond to this “scoop”–and how much of it turns out to be right. (For example, the article says “Sierra Pacific Power Co.”, which is actually a regulated subsidiary of “Sierra Pacific Resources”, the holding company. One wonders what other details might be suspect.)

Since the story broke well after the markets closed, so no action on the stock (SRP closed very near its 52 week low, but we’ll see on Monday).

Bulletin #21

UFTO Bulletin #21 April 29, 1996

To: UFTO Members: . . in this issue: . . . . . .

Tampa Meeting EdF Project Employee Patents DOE Workshop

This will be a quick note, to be followed up in more detail later in the month, since I’m leaving town tomorrow April 30 for a week (see item 3 below).


I hope you and your company representatives found both meetings to be useful and productive. I know I did. Copies of any trip reports or notes would be much appreciated.

One key bit of guidance I got was that email is working well for UFTO, so I should emphasize sending materials that way–which is why this Bulletin is coming to you this way.
2. WELCOME A NEW MEMBER: Sierra Pacific Power Co., in Reno NV joined UFTO. Bob Balzar is our point of contact, and he can be reached at 702-689-4028. (See the new UFTO member list handed out in Tampa.)
3. One of the major departments in the R&D part of Electricite de France has agreed to a proposal I submitted to them to investigate their R&D portfolio, to get a sense of what they have to offer and how it could be communicated. The sheer size of EdF’s programs plus the fact that their work is primarily focused on electric utility needs means that we can be sure to find a treasure trove of technology.

While this project is separate and apart from UFTO, I anticipate benefits to you as UFTO members, since I’ve positioned you as the “test audience” for EdF technology information. I’ll keep you posted. I’ll be traveling to EdF in Paris, leaving Tuesday April 30 and back here in the office on May 9. (Don’t be too envious–it’ll be a lot of hard work and long hours, honest!)
4. Texas Utilities wants a survey done on Employee Invention/Patents policies and procedures, across utilities and more importantly other technology companies. Are you sufficiently interested in participating to want to kick in some resources (e.g., UFTO consulting time or dollars)? This could work like the “benchmarking” study I did earlier this year, or it could be a full-fledged UFTO deliverable. Let me know!

5. DOE Office of Industrial Technology is sponsoring a 1/2 day conference this Thursday May 2 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm entitled “Electric Utility Restructuring: Impact on Industries of the Future” in which experts will describe the coming changes and what they mean to the seven industries in OIT’s Industries of the Future Program. Speakers include John Anderson, Elcon, Richard O’Neill, FERC, and several representative of gas turbine manufacturers (on opportunities in DU). It’s open to anyone, so if someone can get to it, enjoy! Let us know what you learn.

If I get the agenda via email, I’ll foward it to you. In the meantime, For more information, call Stan Blazewicz , 202-586-4679
6. The Utility Battery Group is holding its next meeting in Vernon Calif, on May 15-17. You should be on their mailing list. The agenda brochure should arrive in the mail any day now.

Contact Paula Taylor, Energetics, 410-290-0370 or 301-564-8017.

The new membership policy has been established–companies can join for only $1000. Let me know asap if you want me to attend for you.


Au Revoir, Mes Amis!


Sincerely yours,

Edward Beardsworth, Consultant

951 Lincoln Ave___________Tel 415-328-5670___Fax 415-328-5675

Palo Alto CA 94301________EMAIL: