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Fortnightly Magazine - September 2011

Cap-Ex Conundrum

Does slow and steady still win the race?

Michael T. Burr

When a capital-intensive industry enters an asset-building cycle, many companies will operate in the red for a few years or more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as cap-ex investments represent growth for shareholders. The devil is in the details, however, and companies facing a large slug of environmental compliance investments might produce disappointing returns over the next few years.

Not Your Grandfather's Utility

Larry G. Berg

‘We can’t have it both ways: costly mandates without full consumer understanding and support.’

People

(September 2011) Hawaiian Electric Industries CEO selected to serve on National Infrastructure Advisory Council; PPL Corp. names new president; FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company names new director of strategic industry initiatives; USEC Inc. appoints new vice president and chief audit executive; plus senior staff changes at Southern Company, National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, Nebraska Public Power District, and others.

Transactions

(September 2011) Gaz Métro buys Central Vermont Public Service; Tortoise Capital Resources acquires interest in Public Service of New Mexico; South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper sell capacity, and more.

Crossing the Threshold

Technology opens customers’ homes to utility services.

Matt Dinsmore and Laurence Wong

Advanced metering infrastructure and intelligent appliances are opening the door to a new market for utility services. But in-home services are a completely different ball game. Going beyond the meter will require utilities to transform the way they engage and serve customers.

Bonneville's Balancing Act

In the Pacific Northwest, you either spill water or spill wind.

Bruce W. Radford

The wind power industry has been up in arms ever since the Bonneville Power Administration earlier this year announced its Interim Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy. That policy, applicable during periods of high spring runoff and heavy water flow volumes on the Federal Columbia River Power System, calls for BPA to redispatch and curtail access to transmission for wind power generating turbines, and to replace that resource with hydroelectric power generated via BOA hydroelectric dams, in order to avoid having to divert water through dam spillways, which could threaten fish and wildlife by creating excess levels of Total Dissolved Gas (TDG), which can cause Gas Bubble Trauma. Yet the legal issue remains unclear: Does this practice imply discrimination in the provision of transmission service, or is it simply a matter of system balancing and generation dispatch? In fact, the FERC may lack jurisdiction over the dispute, as it pertains to the fulfillment of BPA’s statutory mandates.

The 40 Best Energy Companies

Michael T. Burr

(September 2011) Our annual ranking tracks the publicly traded electric and gas companies that produce the greatest value for shareholders. Despite the year’s topsy-turvy financial markets, perennial performers like DPL, PPL and Exelon return to the top of the list. Others face looming cap-ex burdens as regulators impose new mandates and requirements. Leading companies are positioning for growth, despite a challenging landscape.

Navigating in the Age of Uncertainty

Business models are evolving to suit a shifting industry landscape.

Andre Begosso, Jack Azagury and Tim Porter

The next decade will bring serious disruption to the utility industry. But with cooperation from regulators and legislators, utility companies will be able to shift their business models to capture significant value—both in existing businesses and emerging ones.

Updating the Utility Compact

New regulatory frameworks encourage electric infrastructure investment.

David K. Owens

Under business-as-usual regulation, electric utilities must file more and more rate cases to keep up with rising costs. New approaches provide for modest but stable recovery of costs outside rate cases, while providing ongoing regulatory oversight and creating strong incentives for utilities to efficiently manage construction projects.

Traffic Signal Ahead

Smart grid evolution requires two-way communication—with meters and with customers themselves.

Guerry Waters

Despite the industry’s cautious and inconsistent approach, the smart grid is becoming a reality. Projects and pilots have provided valuable experience about what works and what doesn’t. Recent survey results illustrate the lessons utilities have learned—and how they’re changing their strategies.

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