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United States

Utility wind group expands

America's Utility Wind Interest Group (UWIG) is opening its doors for the first time to non-utility organisations, a reflection of the changes being wrought by the restructuring of the nation's electricity market. At 27, membership of the group is also at an all-time high, in large part because of increased interest in wind amongst rural electric co-operatives and municipal utilities. In 1996, there were just 16 members. The group was founded in 1989.

The first non-utility member was due on board before the start of February, according to UWIG's Bob Putnam. With two more utility members also expected, the membership should have risen to 30 by the end of last month. UWIG's mission is to accelerate the integration of wind into utility systems. And with deregulation, the players are changing. "We wanted other stakeholders such as power marketers to be at the table," says Putnam.

Indeed, the identity of the newer members of UWIG is a significant gauge of the changing US wind scene. Privately owned utilities still make up the largest number of members, but the real membership growth is from public utilities and rural co-operatives. Four years ago, only one member was a rural co-op and only one was a public power municipal utility. In contrast, currently the members include seven rural electric co-operatives and seven municipal utilities. "They want to deliver what the customer wants," says Putnam, recalling how many opinion surveys show consumers saying they want green electricity. "Maybe they're in a better position to deliver it," he adds.

UWIG members consist of utilities in the US and Canada. The newest members are Mid-American Energy Co and Cedar Falls utilities, both of Iowa, and Ontario Hydro from Canada.

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