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cash flow

Utilities Earn an A+ for Power Plant Auctions

Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for their coupons.

These utilities (see sidebar, "Going Once, Going Twice¼ Sold!") can expect their credit ratings to remain firm or even jump (em although that's debated by analysts. Such improved ratings may surprise market observers led to believe that loss of utility collateral would hurt investment grades.

Mail

William C. Schaffer

"Water Rates: A Second Look"

As one who has worked in the regulatory environment for the last 23 years, certain accounting treatments deserve a second look to bring us back to basics. I raise the point because of an article I recently read by Dr. Janice A. Beecher and Dr. Patrick C. Mann, "Real Water Rates," published in the July 15, 1997 Public Utility Fortnightly (p. 42). At the outset, allow me to say that the opinion expressed is my own and does not represent the official position of the Delaware Public Service Commission.

In the portion of Dr. Beecher's and Dr.

Unbundling, Take Two: No Effect on Risk

Michael T. Maloney

Robert Rosenberg in his comment on our paper makes a fundamental error regarding financial risk. (Rosenberg, "Unbundling Capital Costs: It Doesn't Add Up," Nov. 1, 1997, p. 46, responding to Maloney, McCormick, and Tyler, "The Wires Charge: Risk and Rates for the Regulated Distributor," Sept. 1, 1997, p. 26.)

Rosenberg claims that as utilities spin off into separate wires and generating businesses, risk will increase in both lines of business.

Inside Washington

Lori A. Burkhart

USE OF U.S. ECONOMY UPHELD FOR EQUITY CALCULATIONS

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in seven rate cases involving interstate natural gas pipelines, has upheld a new policy on the appropriate long-term growth rate to be used in computing their return on equity. Five of the pipelines contested FERC's new policy, as announced in Opinion 396-b.

The Commission defended the rate-setting method, but decided to allow the pipelines a chance to prove why the rules should not apply to them. The contesting pipelines are: Trailblazer Pipeline Co. (Docket No.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

WHEN UTILITIES SAY THEY WILL "EXIT" THE generation business (em their stock in trade for the last 50 years (em what does that mean exactly? And what of those that plan to "concentrate" on transmission and distribution? Can you visualize a T&D utility? What would it look like? How many employees? How big a dividend? It's time to ponder these questions.

Global Alliances

Lori Glauser

DRIVEN BY ECONOMIC GROWTH, INDUSTRIALIZATION and privatization, worldwide demand for primary energy could double by 2020 (em requiring one 500-megawatt power plant to be built every 3.5 days to meet that need. Much of this growth will occur in Asian countries, most notably China, Thailand, India, South Korea, and Indonesia. China alone is expected to increase electric generating capacity by 15,000 MW per year at a cost of about $15 billion annually.

Frontlines

Bruce W. Radford

Let me tell a story. A consultant I know works as the lead negotiator for a Native American tribe that sells fuel to electric generating plants. On occasion he visits the reservation to discuss business plans with the tribe, exploring various scenarios for utility restructuring.

Recently, this consultant said he found himself in the ceremonial council lodge, instructing tribal leaders on decision trees and discounted cash flows. When he finished, the younger members conferred briefly in their native language.

Far From Closure: No Consensus Yet on Accounting Proposal for Decommissioning

John S. Ferguson

In aiming to make financial statements more meaningful, will FASB instead make them indecipherable?

By mid-summer, a total of 123 companies had cranked out some 574 pages of comments, detailing exactly what they thought of the accounting rules proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to cover the closure or removal of certain long-lived assets. %n1%n The FASB's"Exposure Draft," issued early last year, had requested comments on eight issues. The respondents answered as requested, but also raised a host of new questions.

What's a Power Plant Worth

Jeffrey P. Price

"Spark spread" sets value, but as prices diverge from system

lambda, merchant plant buyers will be flying blind.

Many power plants will be bought and sold in the next decade. Some utilities will divest power plants as required by regulators; others will sell for strategic reasons. Most of the plants sold likely will become merchant plants, with no guaranteed market for their electric output. Merchant plant activity is already significant and growing. The value of these plants will depend on how well they can perform in an uncertain market.

FERC to use GDP to Estimate Equity Return

Lori A. Burkhart

Through two orders issued on June 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has set policy on return on equity for interstate natural gas pipelines (em specifically, the component of long-term dividend growth in the discounted cash flow model.

In both cases, the FERC applied the long-run growth rate of the economy, as measured by the U.S. gross domestic product. (See, Re Northwest Pipeline Corp. Opinion No. 396-B, Docket Nos. RP93-5-025 and RP93-96-005; Re Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co., Docket Nos.

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