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Public Utilities Reports

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Fortnightly Magazine - September 2012

Mitt Romney and You

Bold plan for independence, or more partisan overreach?

By Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief

The Republican nominee’s energy plan doesn’t say much about electricity or natural gas. But what it does say should sound familiar to anyone who’s followed energy policy for more than four years.

People (September 2012)

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.

Transactions (September 2012)

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.

Hedging or Betting?

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.

RTO Tango

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.

The Fortnightly 40 Best Energy Companies

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 Race to Consolidate

Positioning to win in the contest for scale.

By Jack Azagury, Walt Shill, and Ted Walker

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.

Rate Design by Objective

A purposeful approach to setting energy prices.

By Philip Q Hanser

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.

Pre-Funding to Mitigate Rate Shock

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.

Vendor Neutral

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.