Oct. 30, 2002

New free online service for lighting specifiers offered

ZING Communications, Inc., New York, recently launched SearchSpec, a free online resource for architects, lighting designers, corporate designers, engineers, contractors, and distributors who want easy access to specification information on thousands of lighting products.

After logging onto www.searchspec.com, a lighting specifier can choose a product category and designate a specific product. Then the system generates a catalog of products in a standard interactive format. Once he or she selects a product, the specifier can download the specification sheet and IES files, see select products in projects, and contact the manufacturer or local sales representative.

Now available for track lighting fixtures (featuring more than 700 products from 15 manufacturers) and linear suspended indirect lighting (featuring more than 500 products from 17 manufacturers), the site will feature commercial indoor and outdoor lighting products in the future.



Oct. 30, 2002

NEMA guidelines for selecting outlet boxes unveiled

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Rosslyn, Va., recently released OS 3-2002, Selection and Installation Guidelines for Electrical Outlet Boxes. This publication offers practical information on correct product selection and industry-recommended practices for the installation of electrical outlet boxes in accordance with the NEC.

By providing education and understanding of proper application and installation of boxes, NEMA hopes the industry will develop a closer liaison with installers and electrical inspectors.

For more information on OS 3-2002, click here. You can purchase the document for $57 by contacting Global Engineering Documents by phone: (800) 854-7179 (U.S.) or (303) 397-7956 (international); fax: (303) 397-2740; or on the Web at www.global.ihs.com.



With all the problems American power companies have had keeping the lights on during the last two years, the SeTrans Regional Transmission Organization may have thought it was time to look outside of the country for help when it contracted Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB) to manage its power grid in the southeastern United States. The five-year contract is expected to generate $150 million a year. The company’s ESB International and EirGrid subsidiaries and domestic sub-contractor Accenture will manage the system that supplies states including Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, consists of more than 53,000 miles of transmission lines and 73,000MW of power capacity. The agreement, which will involve the management of $9 billion worth of assets, has yet to be finalized.

Oct. 28, 2002

Bush signs military construction appropriations bills

Two appropriations bills for the fiscal 2003 year recently signed by President Bush will create a substantial amount of construction work for the nation’s contractors. Although he received a larger budget than he requested for either bill, both will receive less money than similar bills passed in the previous year.

“The Dept. of Defense and the military construction appropriations bills I sign today will make our country more secure, make our military forces more prepared, and reward military families for their sacrifices in service,” the President said.

The military construction bill sets aside $10.5 billion for building and upgrading military installations and for family housing units. The number represents a 1% decrease from the 2002 allotment. Other military construction work, including barracks and airport runways, will receive $5.6 billion, which is 5% less than the previous year.



Oct. 28, 2002

Duke Energy Corp. cuts 1,500 jobs

After enduring a 71% drop in profits in the third quarter, Duke Energy Corp. announced it will cut 1,500 regular positions and 400 contract employees. Although the company’s chairman, Richard Priory, said the move will save $100 million a year, Duke Energy’s shares fell 4.4%, or 88 cents, after the announcement, to $19.26.

The cuts come amidst a series of investigations into its business practices concerning so-called round-trip trading, in which an equal amount of electricity is bought and sold at the same price. Such trades inflate revenue and trading volume. The company investigated more than 750,000 trades beginning in January 1999 and discovered 61 round-trip trades.

Duke’s earnings statement has also been subpoenaed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and by a federal grand jury.

The company says it expects earnings in 2003 to be about the same as 2002.



Oct. 25, 2002

Bada Bing! Cable companies find new ways to lure customers

The “Sopranos” may not be the only reason to sign up for cable anymore. According to a new study by independent research group ABI, bundled services offered by cable companies that include video on demand (VOD), cable telephony, and high-speed Internet will help increase set top penetration as well as reduce churn rate. The study reports that the market is being driven by cable operators’ desire to offer more services to subscribers and to improve the quality and reliability of cable television delivery.

“US Cable Television Infrastructure: CATV Equipment Markets and System Trends” identifies the subscribers for various service such as high-speed Internet, cable telephony, and video on demand. As more cable providers merge and competition for subscriber dollars increases, companies are looking for more and different ways to attract new customers. Chief among those is providing more broadband services.

The report also offers information on the total equipment market revenue and shipments, including headend equipment, coaxial and fiber cables, and optical RF electronics.



Oct. 25, 2002

Demand for electric power equipment to enjoy modest gains

The electric utility industry may be down, but it’s not out. Despite the infamous power shortages in California in 2000 and 2001 and the high-profile collapses of companies like Enron and Aquilla, independent research indicates that a healthier industrial environment will help increase U.S. demand for electric power equipment by 3.7% annually to $17.7 billion in 2006. However, the uncertain business climate for electric utilities will restrain further growth.

“Electric Power Equipment,” a new study by the Freedonia Group, shows reports that gains will be strongest in the nonutility generator (NUG) market, which will increase 5% annually to $7.7 billion in 2006. The market is expected to benefit from both healthy increases in manufacturing shipments and increased power production by NUGs, as well as increasing bulk power purchases and electricity monitoring and control by industrial firms.

Overall, the predictions point to an improvement over the 1996 to 2001 period when deregulation created an uncertain market.



Oct. 23, 2002

Guarantee Electrical Co. receives award for work on Missouri casino

As it turns out, the house doesn’t always win. Guarantee Electrical Co. recently received a Project of the Year award from the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis for its completion of almost $13 million of electrical work at the new Ameristar Casino Entertainment Center in St. Charles, Mo.

The two-story casino, which was built over the Missouri River and supported by precast concrete columns, included nearly 200,000 sq. ft. of interior space on the first floor alone. Guarantee served as the full-service electrical contractor for the work on the first floor, which included a steakhouse, video arcade, and gift shop, and provided the power and controls for a 40-ft fountain at the front entrance to the casino.

Along the way, the firm dealt with two floods that threatened to shut the project down—one due to heavy rains that raised the Missouri and other area rivers and the other when a second-floor pipe broke and flooded the first floor.

Despite the challenges, however, the firm finished the project on time.



Oct. 23, 2002

Advance Transformer named Supplier of the Year

In recognition of its achievements in customer service, sales promotion, training, marketing, and technical support, Advance Transformer, Rosemont, Ill., recently received the Supplier of the Year award from Affiliated Distributors at its annual North American meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

“As an [Affiliated Distributors] supplier for nearly two decades, Advance takes great pride in receiving this honor,” said Dave Levinson, Advance Transformer’s vice president, marketing. “The award is especially gratifying considering the exceptional caliber of the other organizations considered for this honor.”



Oct. 21, 2002

Enron exec admits to inflating energy prices during California electricity crisis

New evidence continues to surface in the investigations into what caused the energy crisis that plagued California in 2000 and 2001, as a former electricity trader for the now-defunct Enron Corp. pleaded guilty to inflating prices during that period. The admission will likely strengthen the case being made by state officials for billions of dollars in refunds for California energy customers.

Timothy Belden, who worked as head of Enron’s western power trading unit in Portland, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the most recent development in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s and Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s investigation into energy trading practices during California’s power crisis.

California is seeking $9 billion in refunds for alleged price-gouging by several large energy firms.

Oct. 21, 2002

Residential construction shows continued signs of recovery in September

New construction volume continues to outperform predictions, as statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Census Bureau demonstrate.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,727,000 – 3.7% above the revised August rate of 1,666,000 and 10% above the September 2001 estimate of 1,570,000.

Privately owned housing starts in September were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,843,000, which is 13.3% above the revised August estimate of 1,627,000 and 16.5% above the September 2001 rate of 1,582,000.

The Census Bureau releases residential construction data once a month.



Oct. 18, 2002

Builders see signs of economic recovery

The construction industry continues to show signs of an economic recovery. Builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes declined only slightly this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Housing Market Index (HMI). The index declined one point to 62, its second-highest reading all year.

The HMI is derived from a monthly survey of builders conducted by NAHB. Home builders are asked to rate current sales of single-family homes and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” fair,” or “poor.” They are also asked to rate traffic of prospective buyers as either “high to very high,” “average,” or “low to very low.” Scores for responses to each component are used to arrive at a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

“On the strength of continuing low mortgage rates and sound house-price performance, builders still have a very good outlook on the current marketplace,” says Gary Garczynski, NAHB president. “Buyer demand remains strong at the present time, though builders are moderating their expectations for future sales and noting slower traffic of prospective buyers.”



Oct. 18, 2002

Fiber-to-the-home broadband installations expected to rise

DSL may be the buzzword associated with broadband communications transfer right now, but according to a recent study, it may lose that title to FTTH. Market research firm Render, Vanderslice & Associates conducted the study that found fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband installations will rise 330% in 2003 and ultimately reach as many as 1.4 million homes by 2004.

“Fiber-to-the-Home and Optical Broadband 2002” reports that in contrast to the proposed growth of FTTH, other broadband technologies like DSL and cable modem are growing at a comparatively smaller rate of 72% per year. FTTH connections can carry high-speed Internet, video, and voice communications, although only 60% of homes currently equipped with the technology have all three.

“With fiber’s tremendous bandwidth, the benefits of current and future broadband applications for work, telemedicine, education, entertainment, commerce, community outreach, and security can be fully realized and enjoyed by homeowners,” says James Salter, president of the FTTH Council.

The results of the study were presented at the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference 2002, the first annual conference hosted by the FTTH Council.



Oct. 16, 2002

Construction associations agree to work together to better serve customers

In the interests of improved communications and cooperation, the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) signed a partnering agreement at the CMAA National Trade Conference that will bring the two sides together on issues of importance in the construction industry.

The agreement specifies the need for ways to better satisfy construction customers and higher levels of professionalism and integrity in conducting business. It also calls for the support of CMAA’s Construction Manager Certification program and the need to provide construction workers with continuing education opportunities.

Acknowledging the importance of the newest members of the construction industry, the groups have also agreed to help young professionals recognize the value of joining and participating in their associations and professional services.

Blake V. Peck, CMAA’s president, is positive about the possibilities the agreement will create for serving construction customers. “The partnering agreement…will provide a perfect opportunity to find more and better ways to satisfy owners by improving the timeliness and quality of the constructed project.”



Oct. 16, 2002

New Jersey taps Electrotek for distributed generation project

The second part of the New Jersey State Energy Office’s project to develop distributed generation on Long Beach Island (LBI), N.J., became a reality recently when the state’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) awarded a contract to Electrotek Concepts for the procurement, installation and evaluation of microturbine technology at the Harvey Cedars Bible Conference Complex on LBI. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the project is intended to promote energy efficiency, advance new and innovative technologies, and reduce the environmental impact of energy use, according to an Electrotek Concepts press release.

The second phase of the project was given the green light after an analysis of the LBI distribution system conducted by Electrotek in 1999-2000 found that microturbine technology would be appropriate for the complex. According to the BPU, the project “has the potential to increase the supply and use of clean energy resources, as well as increase transmission, sub-transmission, and distribution reliability in an area that is facing reliability issues.”



Oct. 14, 2002

Study links overhead power lines
to cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease

Those who argue that overhead power lines cause cancer received a boost of support recently when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released the results of an eight-year study into the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF). Conducted in Great Britain and San Francisco, the study suggests that EMF produced by overhead power lines increase the risk of cancer in children and the incidence of miscarriage in pregnant women.

Although the full report isn’t expected to be released to the public for a few months, details of its findings began circulating in late August when a leaked copy of it surfaced on an online news site. According to information that has been released and confirmed, however, the study claims that EMF increases the risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Despite the study’s findings, Prof. Philip Walton, who specializes in applied physics at the National University of Ireland, Galway, claims the risk of childhood leukemia caused by overhead power lines is minimal, pointing out that EMF could only be linked to two cases of leukemia per year, on average. Walton cited the results of a major study conducted in Britain.

The researchers responsible for the CPUC study stand behind their findings. “In Britain, hundreds of thousands of homes are exposed to [EMF] levels that mean they could be at risk,” says Dr. Raymond Neutra of the California Department of Health Services.



Oct. 14, 2002

St. Louis apprentice drills competition in National Wire-Off Competition

Working to dispel the belief in the electrical trades that young apprentices aren’t getting the quality of education afforded to earlier generations, Timothy Munn, an apprentice with AMF Electric, St. Louis, recently beat out a promising field of young electrical workers to win the Independent Electrical Contractors National Wire-Off Competition at the 45th Annual Convention and Electric Expo 2002.

The contest, which began for Munn with a regional event in St. Louis, consisted of a 10-min. oral interview, a 75-question written exam, and a practical skills test, which included reading customer design requirements, installing materials on a backboard, and making sure the final product worked.

Munn’s employers weren’t surprised by his success. “By the end of his first year as an apprentice, I felt strongly that Tim was up to the caliber of a fourth-year student,” says Lou Schreier, AMF Electric vice president.



Oct. 11, 2002

Commerce Department extends grant to American Superconductor

Seven years of research and development for manufacturing high-temperature superconductor (HTS) wires with a coated conductor wire architecture have culminated in a two-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advanced Technology Program (ATP) for American Superconductor (AMSC). The Westborough, Mass.-based company is planning to use the grant to develop and implement novel thermal processing equipment its experts believe will enable significant further performance and cost improvements in its coated conductor wires.

The ATP is a 12-year-old program established to fund research that propels promising technologies with a wide range of applications and potential benefits to the economy. AMSC presented the results of its research on the wire manufacturing process at a Department of Energy Peer Review in July. “The results we presented this past summer demonstrate that we are now moving rapidly to commercially viable HTS conductors,” says Grey Yurek, CEO of AMSC.

The company expects its coated conductor wires will be available in long lengths in limited volume in 2005.



Oct. 11, 2002

NECA Show enjoys impressive turnout

More than 7,300 contractors, electricians, and other members of the electrical construction industry converged on Chicago’s newly renovated McCormick Place Convention Center this week for the 49th annual NECA Show. Despite hard economic times, almost 240 exhibitors showed up to show off their wares to the attendees.

Emilio Rouco, NECA’s director of public relations, was happy with the turnout and even a little surprised it surpassed last year’s attendance. “The attendance level is very impressive, especially in light of the tough economic year our nation has suffered,” he says. “Last year we celebrated a very special occasion – our centennial anniversary – with many special events, which drew higher-than-usual numbers. The fact that this year’s numbers are higher is amazing.”



Oct. 9, 2002

Ohio electrical contractors implement new safety standard

After a year of negotiations and 16 drafts, unionized electricians, contractors, and federal regulators in Columbus, Ohio, have reached an agreement to implement an NFPA safety standard that protects electrical workers on the job. First drafted in 1976 and updated regularly, NFPA 70E, “Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces,” specifies protective clothing, face shields, and gloves for use on jobsites.

The Columbus office of OSHA, the Central Ohio chapter of NECA, and Locals 683 and 1105 of IBEW teamed up to develop the program. The National Joint Apprentice and Training Committee, will be responsible for development and coordination of training for the program.

Under the plan, contractors will purchase necessary safety equipment and administer the program. OSHA will monitor the program’s progress to make sure it’s proceeding correctly and according to the standard. The hope is that electrical workers will experience fewer injuries, their employers will have lower worker’s compensation costs, and the Columbus OSHA office will report a lower recordable-accident rate.



Oct. 9, 2002

Monitoring and control device market to enjoy large gains

The market for wireless monitoring and control products will increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47% over the next five years, bringing shipments from $109 million in 2001 to nearly $752 million in 2006, according to a report recently released by Venture Development Corp. (VDC), Natick, Mass.

“The North American Market for Wireless Monitoring & Control in Discrete and Process Manufacturing Applications,” analyzes growth potential in several markets, including utilities, chemical manufacturers, and automotive plants. While the report predicts all three groups will increase their use of wireless monitoring and control devices, the utilities market is set to exhibit the greatest gain, at 17%.

The pictures is not completely rosy, however, Due to users’ concerns about the reliability and safety of using wireless technology for true control applications, the majority of products sold will be for monitoring applications, according to the study.

For more information on the study, visit www.vdc-corp.com/industrial/press/02/pr02-36.html.



Oct. 7, 2002

Department of Energy releases report on lighting energy usage

Remember when Mom used to nag you about turning off the lights when you left the room? Someone wasn’t heeding that advice last year, as a new report conducted by Navigant Consulting and funded by the Department of Energy found that lighting consumed almost 8% of the total U.S. energy consumption in 2001.There are more than 7 billion lights in use across the country.

“The U.S. Lighting Market Characterization, Vol. I: National Lighting Inventory and Energy Consumption” estimates the installed base of lamps in the United States and their energy consumption. The study found that commercial buildings used the largest share of lighting energy at 51%, followed by residential at 27%, industrial at 14%. Incandescent lamps were the highest energy user.

Navigant is working with the Department of Energy to identify opportunities for increasing energy conservation in high-priority areas identified in the lighting inventory.



Oct. 7, 2002

NAED rocks the vote

With one-third of the U.S. Senate and all of the House of Representatives positions up for election in November, the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) is encouraging its members to vote for pro-business candidates. The group’s push is part of the Vote for Business initiative that urges individuals and businesses to become more actively involved in government.

“Our association believes in democracy and promoting responsible citizenship,” says Thomas Naber, NAED president/publisher. “We encourage our members and affiliates to take an active part in the 2002 elections. Each vote will make the difference in helping to elect a pro-business Congress.”

For more information, visit www.naed.org.



Oct. 4, 2002

Home automation market to reach $3 billion by 2007, report says

Capitalizing on market segmentation that extends from do-it-yourself systems that employ equipment available at retail outlets to custom homes with hardwired systems, the home automation and controls industry is set to reach revenues of $3.17 billion by 2007, according to a new study by Allied Business Intelligence.

“Home Automation & Control Networks: Market Segmentation & Drivers, Technology Review and Forecasts” discusses the technology standards, proprietary protocols, and emerging technologies, as well as market trends that are creating opportunities for growth. The report also covers the challenges facing industry players, including segments like lighting control, HVAC control, and security systems.

For more information, visit www.alliedworld.com.



Oct. 4, 2002

West Coast wireless technology provider travels east to make acquisition

In an attempt to meet the requirements of its subscribers, including connection, communication, and coordination with mobile workers, @Road, Fremont, Calif., recently acquired the assets of New Jersey-based ConnectBusiness, a wireless timekeeping and project management provider.

Under the terms of the agreement, @Road acquired the rights to ConnectBusiness’ intellectual property, software applications, and sales and marketing data for cash consideration. Exact financial terms of the deal were not released.

The company plans to use the technologies picked up in the acquisition to develop location-enhanced timekeeping and project management services to link Internet-enabled mobile phones, smart pagers, and PDAs with enterprise applications.



Oct. 2, 2002

California energy companies respond to accusations they withheld power

One week after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a report accusing five of the state’s largest energy providers with creating artificial power shortages during the energy crisis of 2000-2001, the energy companies are responding. Mirant Corp., one of the providers named in report, says the CPUC’s report failed to provide all of the facts, including “a complete outage report promised by the CPUC verifying when and why plants were not producing power.”

The report alleges that Mirant and four other power companies failed to operate their power plants at full capacity, forcing southern Californians to endure four days of rolling blackouts in 2001. Duke Energy Corp., another company named in the report, has also denounced it for a failure to address all of the issues.

Gov. Gray Davis called the companies’ alleged actions “inexcusable” and has called for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.



Oct. 2, 2002

AFCI test instrument may not be safe, says UL

Electricians using an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) circuit tester manufactured by Etcon may not be getting the shock protection they were expecting. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is notifying consumers who have purchased the AF120 model AFCI test instrument hasn’t been evaluated by the UL and bears an unauthorized UL listing mark.

In addition to the potential shock hazard, the receptacle may not properly test all types of AFCIs. The product is distributed through electrical supply outlets and can be identified by the following markings on the product:

“ETCON Receptacle/AFCI Tester”
“CAT.AF120”

UL is asking all consumers who have this instrument to stop using it immediately and return it to the place of purchase.