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Fortnightly Magazine - October 2010

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.

Letters to the Editor

(October 2010) AWEA’s manager of transmission policy refutes author Robert Blohm’s assertion that renewable power exacerbates America’s growing problems with frequency response.

People

(October 2010) Southern Company rearranges executive suites upon Ratcliffe’s retirement; Constellation hires new chief marketing officer; TECO names Ramil CEO; plus executive announcements at Black Hills Corp., Cleco, Tres Amigas, Chesapeake Utilities, Exelon, Vectren, and more.

M&A Uptick

Do regulatory and economic trends favor industry mergers?

Douglas G. Green

Now that some new major transactions have emerged, and financial recovery appears slowly moving forward, utility mergers are beginning to appear likely again. Although regulatory hurdles still impede new transactions, some changes at the federal level are reducing concerns about market power and competition. Plus, changing market conditions and new compliance requirements are strengthening the case for scale economics.

One if by Wholesale, Two if by Retail

Which path leads to the smart grid?

Bruce W. Radford

A fierce debate has erupted in the utility policy community, with battle lines drawn within FERC itself. In the effort to improve system efficiency, two competing alternatives stand out: to build the smart grid on large-scale demand response (DR) programs, or to build it around consumer behavior in retail markets.

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.

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