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Fortnightly Magazine - October 2004

The Dividend Yield Trap

Higher payouts aren't enough over the long term.
George W. Bilicic and Ian C. Connor

Higher payouts aren't enough over the long term.

The past two years witnessed the ascendancy of dividend yield in the valuations of U.S. electric utilities. The recent primacy of yield in utility-industry valuations is the product of a unique confluence of factors. The collapse of most of the industry's non-regulated growth initiatives has resulted in a market that attributes little value to the industry's growth prospects beyond that which has been historically generated by the expansion of rate base-1 to 3 percent.

Profiting from Transmission Investment

A holistic, new approach to cost/benefit analysis.
Kojo Ofori-Atta, Elliot Roseman, Bansari Saha, Scott Stuart, Marc Lipschultz & Jonathan Smidt

A holistic, new approach to cost/benefit analysis.

The still-fresh memories of last year's Northeast blackout coupled with rising congestion nationwide have increased awareness of the electric transmission investment shortfall in the United States. Such investment, in the right locations, would have a highly positive benefit-cost ratio. But how much should be spent?

Operations & Maintenance: Who Has the Best Margin?

Operations & Maintenance
Peter Manos

Operations & Maintenance

The process of calculating meaningful benchmarks is fraught with pitfalls.

Regulatory reporting requirements for major U.S. utilities provide a wealth of data for benchmarking studies. Both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Form 1 for electric utilities and FERC Form 2 for gas utilities involve the reporting of more than 2,500 unique data points per utility per year, across diverse aspects of utility operations, maintenance, and finance.

Frontlines

Will a back-to-basics strategy meet investor expectations?
Richard Stavros

Frontlines

Will a back-to-basics strategy meet investor expectations?

It's an issue that is coming to the fore with greater force-the debate over how utilities should honor their obligation to stockholders. But this time there seems to be quite a difference of opinion over strategy-or so we found in our annual finance issue.

People

New Opportunities:
We welcome submissions to People, especially those accompanied by a high-resolution color photograph. E-mail to: photos@pur.com

People

New Opportunities:

Peabody Energy named Charles "Chuck" Burggraf group executive of Colorado operations, responsible for Twentymile Coal Co.'s Twentymile Mine near Oak Creek and development of additional coal reserves in Colorado. Burggraf most recently served as operations manager of the Twentymile Mine.

Wisconsin Public Service promoted Charlie Schrock and Larry Borgard. Schrock is now president and COO of operations; Borgard becomes president and COO of energy delivery.

Power Measurements

Failing the Market-Power Test:
Jon Ecker

Power Measurement

Failing the Market-Power Test:

How FERC's ruling could affect wholesale power markets.

Perspective

Hard-and-fast ring-fencing rules are not the best way to maintain order in the partially deregulated utility sector.
Steve Fetter

Perspective

Hard-and-fast ring-fencing rules are not the best way to maintain order in the partially deregulated utility sector.

In 1992, my colleagues on the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and I initiated the first retail wheeling case in the country. Retail wheeling was the old name for competition, back when everyone thought that moving electrons from one place to another was a relatively simple task, one that could not in any way harbor underlying sinister acts or motives.

Commission Watch

The AGs' Global Warming Suits:
Jonathan A. Lesser

Commission Watch

The AGs' Global Warming Suits:

A recent lawsuit filed by eight state attorneys general will take the industry to the place where bad policy meets with bad economics.

Winners and Losers: Utility Strategy and Shareholder Return

Diversified companies lead (and the globals lag) over the past five years.

James Coyne and Prescott Hartshorne

Business & Money

Winners and Losers:

Diversified companies lead (and the globals lag) over the past five years.

The unbundling of services and companies in the electricity and natural gas industries have created unprecedented opportunities to reinvent the traditional integrated utility model, with a broader array of attendant risks and rewards. But this past year was clearly one of retrenchment and strategic soul searching, allowing an opportunity to re-examine the sector for winning business formulas.

Technology Corridor

Cyber and Physical Security:
Christian Hamaker

Technology Corridor

Cyber and Physical Security:

Although NERC and other agencies are helping out, utilities still face internal obstacles.

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