PG&E Is All Charged Up

The S.F.-based utility embarks on a nationwide buying spree

"We didn't want to be stuck with a company that was still chanting the ancient mantra of regulated monopoly utilities," says Don Dame, manager of marketing and member services of the Northern California Power Agency, as the 700,000-customer consortium is known. "It was important to work with a company with the kind of dynamism Enron offers."

But Wall Street bankers expect PG&E to prevail. They know that PG&E solves business problems the old-fashioned way -- it throws money at them.

"I don't think there will be much of a clash down the road with Enron," says Ed Tirello, energy analyst at Natwest Securities, a New York investment firm. "I think PG&E will have substantially more cash than Enron. They're bigger, and they haven't used up their capital."

Indeed, with $26 billion in assets, PG&E is by some measures the largest utility in the United States. Under California's energy deregulation law, PG&E must sell off four of its California fossil-fuel-based power plants -- including the Hunters Point Power Plant in San Francisco -- valued at $400 million. The money could provide an important contribution to the company's deregulated energy war chest as it pushes its business nationwide, Tirello says.

The company plans to eventually buy telecommunications companies, software providers, billing services, information consulting firms, or any other sort of firm whose experience and technology might help PG&E peddle power.

From California, to the New York island, to the Gulf Stream waters, to the Redwood forests -- by its S.F. executives' new way of thinking -- this land was made for

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