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Public Utilities Reports

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Fortnightly Magazine - May 2012

Hedge Timing

There’s no magic in dollar cost averaging.

Richard Goldberg and James Read

Dollar-cost averaging has gained favor as a technique for hedging fuel-price risks. But hidden costs might outweigh the savings, leaving utilities exposed to volatile markets.

Smart Decoupling

Dealing with unfunded mandates in performance-based ratemaking.

John J. Reed and Danielle S. Powers

Many states have implemented decoupled rate regimes to avoid penalizing utilities for conservation efforts. But ensuring appropriate recovery of costs involved with conservation and green energy requires a careful approach. Cost sharing mechanisms balance the interests of utilities and customers — and provide incentives to invest.

Wind REITs

The New Tax Equity

David F. Levy, Sean Shimamoto, and Nickolas P. Gianou

With a shifting policy climate, equity financing for renewable energy projects is becoming more scarce. Real estate investment trusts (REIT) offer an alternative vehicle for bringing in capital from investors who aren’t seeking tax incentives. But restrictions and requirements make REITs a tricky way to finance power projects.

Energy Storage Solutions

Barriers and breakthroughs to a smarter grid.

Bradford P. Roberts

Technology is quickly making energy storage more economical and effective than ever before. But companies that wish to invest in storage capacity face a journey through a frustrating regulatory no-man’s land. Opening the gateway for storage to deliver smart grid benefits will require a more streamlined and coherent approach to regulating storage as utility infrastructure.

Vendor Neutral

(May 2012) Entergy Louisiana starts construction on gas-fired power project; Virginia Commonwealth University and Dominion partner on a test site for efficient energy technologies; Burlington Electric Department selects Siemens for meter data management platform; IKEA commissions four Blink electric vehicle charging stations; Edison Mission Energy, TIAA-CREF and Cook Inlet Region Inc. form partnership, and others.

What Happened at Beacon

Election politics almost killed a great idea.

Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

Beacon Power filed bankruptcy last fall, amid a political firestorm sparked by Solyndra’s demise. But should the company have received a bailout, so it could continue operating until FERC’s new pay-for-performance rules take effect?

People

(May 2012) Lewis “Lew” Hay III intends to retire from NextEra Energy at the end of 2013 as part of a planned leadership succession process. Hay will serve as executive chairman from July 1, 2012, until his retirement, and James L. Robo, currently president and CEO of NextEra Energy, will succeed Hay as CEO, effective July 1.

Storm Clouds Forming

The coming cash flow and dividend stress at America’s electric utilities.

James M. Seibert

Government policies and the industry’s response has increased the risk factors affecting the quality of earnings at U.S. electric utilities. Deferred taxes and ballooning pension obligations portend leaner operating cash flow in the years ahead. Regulators and utilities will be forced to unwind these financial knots in future rate cases.

Solar Screen Test

Making room on the local grid for small-scale PV.

Bruce W. Radford

For the first time, perhaps, the electric utility industry may need to keep track not only of peak load, but also of minimum load, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reviews a proposal by the Solar Energy Industries Association to employ a new definition of minimum load under a new, relaxed threshold test that would govern eligibility for fast-tracking of applications by generation developers to interconnect new, small-scale solar energy projects to the local utility distribution grid.

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