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Utilities plan to power up the Net

Forget Bill Gates and Scott McNealy. The real power brokers are about to go online.

Forget Bill Gates and Scott McNealy. The real power brokers are about to go online.

This week, a task force representing more than 250 utilities announced plans to sell electrical power over the Internet. The task force, dubbed the Joint Transmission Services Information Network (JTSIN) is responding to a mandate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the end of April. The mandate, given with the goal of stimulating competition among wholesale vendors of power, requires public utilities to provide open electronic access to information about their transmission grid capacity.

Through a secure Web site, the JTSIN utilities will be able to reserve the power capacity they want to sell, post information about the excess capacity they want to sell, and to execute transactions over the Internet. The Web site will use electronic commerce software from TradeWave, which encrypts all communications between parties to keep unauthorized users from electronically eavesdropping on transactions. The system is expected to be operational later this year.

Through use of open Internet software, the task force hopes to attract other utilities to join the JTSIN network, which already controls about 40 percent of the transmission line mileage in the United States. The New England Power Pool, East-Central Area Reliability Coordinate Agreement, Mid-Continent Area Power Pool, Southwest Power Pool, Mid-American Interconnected Network, and Virginia/Carolinas Reliability Council are all members of the task force.