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CalEnergy: Power being sold in state

April 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

When Imperial County Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly ruled CalEnergy could suspend its contract with Southern California Edison, the local geothermal company had no problem selling power on the open market.

Within hours of the decision late last month, CalEnergy had an agreement to sell its power to El Paso Merchant Energy, which has brokered that power to other utilities.

On Monday, CalEnergy officials were asked if the company's energy has remained in California, where rolling blackouts have become a norm in some areas.

Vince Signorotti, land manager for CalEnergy, said EPME has assured him the CalEnergy power has been sold to customers in the state.

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However, CalEnergy officials said there is no guarantee that will always be the case during the duration of the agreement between CalEnergy and EPME.

Signorotti said there is a stipulation in which CalEnergy requests that EPME give its best effort to sell the power in California.

Thom Gross, a spokesman for CalEnergy and MidAmerican Holdings Co., parent company of CalEnergy, said, "We have no control over it other than to voice our desire that it remain in California."

CalEnergy is providing 340 megawatts of power to EPME. One megawatt is enough to supply power to 1,000 households.

CalEnergy officials declined to say how much the company is earning by selling power on the open market.

CalEnergy has sold power to EPME since it won a round in its court battle against Edison, the state's second-largest power utility.

CalEnergy has a contract in which eight of its 10 plants in the Imperial Valley supply power to Edison.

Edison has failed to pay CalEnergy since November and CalEnergy filed a lawsuit against the utility. That lawsuit sought two actions — that CalEnergy be allowed to break from its contract with Edison and that Edison be forced to pay the money owed to CalEnergy.

Donnelly ruled last month that CalEnergy could suspend its contract with Edison and sell its power on the open market. Donnelly could rule Monday on the payment issue.

CalEnergy officials have said Edison owes more than $140 million in back payments.

On the decision by Donnelly to allow a contract suspension, Gross said, "We will continue selling power on the open market as long as the court order remains in effect."

He added CalEnergy will continue to assert Edison is in breach of the contract until the utility pays what is owed to CalEnergy.

Today, CalEnergy officials were to make a $4.8 million property tax payment to Imperial County. Company officials said they can make that payment because of the court order that allowed the company to sell its power on the open market.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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