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Electric Utilities Keep On Current Consolidation Path

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's Business News starts with a powerful merger. Consolidation among the companies that feed our electrical grid is continuing with a proposed deal between two power utilities in the Midwest. Chuck Quirmbach of Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: Milwaukee-based We Energies says its proposal to buy Chicago-based Integrys for $9 billion is a good fit. We Energies' vice president Rick White says the number of publicly traded electric utilities has been shrinking.

RICK WHITE: In order to remain price competitive - in order to remain financially competitive, you really need to expand your footprint.

QUIRMBACH: The footprint or service territory would include 4 million customers in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois, including Integrys' natural gas service to parts of metro Chicago. Kira Loehr heads the consumer group Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin and says power companies' promises don't always become reality.

KIRA LOEHR: Mergers or acquisitions were announced with a great deal of fanfare - an indication that all customers, shareholders - that everyone would benefit from the process, but the end result was often no quantitative benefits to customers.

QUIRMBACH: A group of large Wisconsin businesses is also working with regulators to make sure any merger wouldn't raise their rates. The proposed deal between We Energies and Integrys needs approval from the four states as well as the federal government - a process that could take a year. For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chuck Quirmbach is a Milwaukee-based reporter who covers developments and issues in Southeastern Wisconsin that are of statewide interest. He has numerous years of experience covering state government, elections, the environment, energy, racial diversity issues, clergy abuse claims and major baseball stadium doings. He enjoys covering all topics.

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