McKennas sets UK precedent by advising US electricity companies on competition

McKenna & Co has become the first UK law firm to advise on introducing electricity competition to a US state.

A 13-strong team from McKennas' offices in London, Washington, and Hong Kong, which was headed by Fiona Woolf, spent 10 weeks in a specially rented office in San Francisco advising on the intro- duction of competition into California's $23bn (£36.8bn) electricity industry.

Project partner Mark Bartholomew said the team had drawn on its experience in

England and Wales, where it advised the National Grid Company on agreements for pool trading of the power supplied by the 12 regional electricity companies. But he said the Californian agreements “were actually much more sophisticated”.

As a result of legislation passed by the Californian state government, the three private electricity generating companies have been forced to hand over the control of their grids to an independent central body, which, from 1 January 1998, will begin to allow consumers to buy electricity from the supplier of their choice.

Another independent non-profit making corporation will control the Power Exchange – a new electricity pool to which the generators are obliged to sell their power.

McKennas acted for the trustee of both corporations, which between them have a budget running to hundreds of millions of dollars, in putting together a set of tariffs, rules, procedures and agreements.

Bartholomew said: “We had to assemble a big team in San Francisco pretty quickly to get the thing done in time.”

The majority of the legal team came from London, but two lawyer members of it came from McKennas' Hong Kong office and two from Washington, where an office was set up a year ago with an eye on work that would be generated by the introduction of electricity competition in the US.