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Profiting From Energy Price Spikes

Duquesne Light Co., in southwestern Pennsylvania, has launched an online exchange that gives midsize commercial energy customers the power to save money. The exchange is activated during peak demand periods, when the price charged by Duquesne's supplier crosses a predetermined threshold. An automated E-mail notification system lets commercial customers know when Duquesne anticipates that the threshold will be crossed.

Customers then can log on to the exchange and pledge to conserve energy during specific hours. They get paid a set rate per kilowatt hour by Duquesne. Participants either curtail electricity use or run their own generators.

Supermarket chain Giant Eagle is one of 11 businesses to sign up for the program so far. The company requires about 1,500 kilowatts of power a day to support its two distribution centers. According to Duquesne, Giant Eagle will be able to better manage its energy consumption via the exchange. For example, Duquesne might offer to pay 60 cents per kilowatt hour to customers who agree to curtail their load from noon to 3 p.m. Giant Eagle might be able to run its own generator for 35 cents. The difference, 25 cents per kilowatt hour, goes into Giant Eagle's coffers.

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