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Fortnightly Magazine - October 2010

Back to Business

Utility deals resume after 18 months of austerity.

Michael T. Burr

Utilities are taking advantage of a sweet spot in the capital markets, pre-funding and refinancing at record low rates. But cheap money won’t resolve overhanging uncertainties preventing cap-ex projects and M&A deals. Greater certainty in America’s economic and policy outlook will clear a path for strategic change.

Energy Trading Under Dodd-Frank

Wall Street reform hits the utility business.

Jonathan W. Gottlieb and Nathan E. Endrud

Utilities, long accustomed to regulation by FERC and state PUCs, now face extensive regulation of their energy trading activities by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Under the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—commonly known as Dodd-Frank—signed into law July 21, 2010, energy swap contracts may be subject to new capital, margin, reporting, business conduct, and other requirements that likely will increase their trading costs and create new compliance concerns.

Utility-Customer Partnerships

Engaging the consumer takes on new meaning.

Lori A. Burkhart

Customer backlash over dynamic pricing and the smart-grid caught the industry unprepared. CIOs and top customer specialists share their strategies for engagement and attaining consumer satisfaction.

ARRA Sunset

A renewable incentive expires with the Treasury grant program.

Philip H. Spector

With incentives under the Treasury grant program set to expire at the end of the year, green-power development once again seems to be entering the bust phase of its perennial boom-bust cycle. Statutory deadlines presage a surge in new construction beginning between now and the end of the year. What happens after that depends on Congress.

Main Street Gold Mine

Funds collected for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending.

Michael J. Majoros Jr., et al.

The industry might be overlooking a source of capital for smart-grid and similar investments. Funds collected in depreciation accounts for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending projects.

Smothering Sparks

Enhanced standards of care for companies operating in fire-prone terrain.

Jeffrey Meston

Utility systems are responsible for a large share of wildfires that damage billions of dollars worth of property and threaten the safety of people and wildlife. Wildfire threats have escalated in recent years, prompting utilities and regulators to develop a more rigorous approach to mitigating the risk. Leading utilities are establishing new standards of care that eventually will evolve into national best practices.

Constant Vigilance

A holistic approach to smart-grid security.

Mark Cioni

In the new world of the smart grid, security isn’t a destination. It’s a sustained effort with ongoing investments across core areas of the utility enterprise.

Vendor Neutral

Itron deploys meter modules throughout Black Hills territory; Siemens to supply gas turbine packages to Mississippi Power; Cisco acquires Arch Rock for IP-based wireless smart metering applications; eMeter closes $12.5 million private-equity round; Enspiria helps NV Energy secure approvals for smart grid plan; American Superconductor invests in wind-turbine blade manufacturer; DOE selects 22 carbon-capture and storage projects for R&D funding; Petra Solar wins Sandia matching grant; plus announcements from Johnson Controls, Tantalus, Cooper Power, ComEd, UISOL, Convergys, SOLON and more

Transactions

(October 2010) Blackstone and NRG acquire Dynegy assets; Constellation grabs Boston Generating; Exelon gets Deere Renewables; plus details on nearly $7 billion in bond offerings during the month of August, including: a two-tranche, $2 billion issue by Chesapeake; NRG’s $1.1 billion flotation; and major issues from Sempra, Edison International, FPL, Detroit Edison, Dominion and others.

Dividend Debacle

Investors get caught in partisan crossfire.

Michael T. Burr

Investor-owned utilities get caught in the partisan crossfire, as candidates engage in a national food fight over tax policies.

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