A challenging year brings a change in the rankings.
Michael T. Burr
(September 2012) Our annual financial ranking shows some remarkable shifts among the industry’s shareholder value leaders. Despite flat demand and low commodity prices, investor-owned utilities are investing heavily in capital assets. Investment discipline and operational excellence distinguish leaders on the path to financial performance.
The industry’s slow-and-steady pace of mergers seems to be picking up speed, as larger and well-positioned players overtake smaller and weaker targets. Realizing the greatest value from consolidation requires companies to assess their strengths and weaknesses and focus on performance improvement—both before and after a deal gets done.
Changes in regulatory requirements, market structures, and operational technologies have introduced complexities that traditional ratemaking approaches can’t address. Poorly designed rates lead to cross-subsidies, inequitable outcomes, and perverse incentives. An objective-based approach can better communicate costs to customers in a way that better serves operations and policy goals.
Re-starting the Big Build calls for revisiting cost-recovery mechanisms.
By Sherman Elliott and Ralph Zarumba
As the industry resumes major capital-spending programs, utilities and their stakeholders are rightly concerned about the effects on prices. Traditional regulatory approaches expose utilities to risks and costs, and can bring rate shock when capital spending finally makes its way into customers’ bills. Pre-funding investments can provide a smoother on-ramp to bearing the costs of a 21st-Century utility system — but it also raises questions for utilities to address.
Panda Energy awards turnkey $300 million turnkey contract to Siemens and Bechtel; Dominion starts up 585-MW CFB plant; Ocean Power Technologies and Lockheed Martin partner on wave power project; Infigen awards wind turbine service contract to Mitsubishi; ITC commissions 345-kV line in Oklahoma; ABB tests world’s biggest DC transformer; Xcel gets green light for Tres Amigas-area transmission upgrades; plus contracts and announcements from Elster, Sensus, Enertech, and others.
James Rogers grabs CEO position at Duke-Progress; FirstEnergy promotes executives; JEA names Belechak CEO; ConEdison Solutions hires sales execs; Atlantic Power names new CFO; plus executive changes at Copano Energy, DTE, Entergy, and others.
Duke and Progress complete their merger; NRG agrees to acquire GenOn; Algonquin acquires National Grid's New Hampshire distribution business, and acquires an interest in Gamesa's Sandy Ridge wind project; plus other equity and debt transactions, totaling more than $34 billion.
Lacking regulatory oversight, financial hedges turn into risky speculation.
By John A. Neri
Many utilities engage in hedging to protect customers from price spikes. But unless regulators are involved in crafting and monitoring these programs, they can turn into speculative ventures that put ratepayers at risk — for the benefit of shareholders.
PJM and MISO ran from the altar once before. Now there’s talk of a shotgun wedding.
By Bruce W. Radford
Utilities in the Midwest ISO want greater access to sell into PJM’s lucrative market. But that might require a virtual merger of the two RTOs — a move rejected seven years ago as too costly, and perhaps still impractical today.
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