Renewable M&A lives on despite death of Treasury cash grants.
Brian Boufarah and Marlene Motyka
The U.S. Treasury cash grants for new renewable power projects expired at the end of 2011. These incentives, which were implemented under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helped to support continued capacity additions throughout the recession. The impending expiration of these grants caused a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity during 2011 as developers and financiers rushed to get deals done and to begin construction in order to meet the Section 1603, 5-percent safe harbor threshold by the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.
Second thoughts on transmission’s golden egg.
The electric utility industry offers up a wealth of ideas on how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission might reform its policy, adopted under FERC Order 679 in 2006, of granting financial incentives for investments in transmission line projects that ensure reliability or mitigate line congestion so as to reduce the cost of delivered power. Fortnightly’s Bruce W. Radford reports.
Unforeseen consequences of dedicated renewable energy transmission.
Roger H. Bezdek and Robert M. Wendling
Achieving aggressive renewable energy goals will require building thousands of miles of new transmission lines, and these so-called “green-power superhighways” could bring major new sources of low-cost electricity into the market. But will those sources be renewables? Analysts Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling argue that with new access to distant wholesale markets, coal-fired generation would become more competitive than ever.
Are merchant power assets overpriced?
By some measures, merchant power assets look like a bargain, selling for well below their replacement cost. But whether low prices signal a buying opportunity or a value trap depends on the outlook for electricity demand growth—not just in the long term, but also in the fairly immediate future.
‘We can’t have it both ways: costly mandates without full consumer understanding and support.’
A new future for small coal-fired plants.
Adam Borison, Gregory Hamm and Philip Narodick
Small coal-fired plants are particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental pressures, putting some plant owners in what seems like a no-win position. But an emerging option—biocoal from crop wastes—might give small coal units a new lease on life.
Utility deals resume after 18 months of austerity.
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.
Setting the stage for conservation.
America’s electric utilities understand their central role in taking efficiency and conservation to the next level. Accordingly, the industry has nearly doubled its spending on efficiency measures in the past few years. But encouraging customers to save energy won’t be enough to keep pace with the electricity demands of a growing digital economy. The country’s efficiency efforts will be most effective as part of a clean energy portfolio strategy.
Predicting discord in power plant property tax assessments.
At a time when many states and municipalities are facing budget deficits of historic proportions, many power generators are struggling against declining demand, the lowest electricity prices in many years, and looming carbon legislation. As a result, tax authorities might be seeking to raise property tax receipts at the exact same time that many generators are looking to lower their assessments. Conflict appears to be on the horizon, but where will it emerge? An examination of state budgets, as well as the expected changes in generator gross margins, reveals how tax collectors and taxpayers are most likely to respond.
Will unconventional gas assure plentiful supplies?
At the moment, the United States is experiencing a glut of natural gas with record underground gas storage inventories and prices around $4/MMBtu, which serves to underscore the new thinking about U.S. natural gas supply—i.e., future gas supplies might be less constrained than earlier studies suggested they would. Given the speed with which the expectations for U.S. natural gas have changed, it’s reasonable to ask how solid is this new thinking about U.S. natural gas supply and what should the role of natural gas be in meeting our long-term energy needs in a carbon-constrained economy?