State complaints over FERC-granted equity returns could dry up funding for transmission expansion.
Perhaps sensing the weight of evidence allayed against them, transmission owners have thrown caution to the wind by openly and admittedly submitting an ROE analysis that doesn’t comport with FERC precedent.
Utilities face rate pressure as financing costs hit rock bottom.
Fortnightly’s annual rate case survey is designed to give readers a look at rates of return on equity (ROE) awarded in state-level retail base rate proceedings for electric and natural gas utility companies. An examination of the reasoning and commentary contained in these orders provides a glimpse into economic factors considered by regulators as they seek to balance the interests of investors and consumers when authorizing utility ROEs.
Why similar U.S and Canadian risk profiles yield varied rate-making results.
James M. Coyne and John Trogonoski
Cost of capital is often a contentious issue in utility ratemaking. This is due, in part, to the inexact nature of the tools available to financial analysts and the considerable room for divergent opinions on key inputs to cost-of-capital estimation. Perhaps for this very reason, and to achieve regulatory efficiency, Canadian regulators widely adopted a formulaic approach to setting return on equity (ROE). However, an unusual degree of rancor has evolved north of the border as allowed ROEs in Canada, once at parity, have fallen near 200-basis points below their U.S. peers.
Volatile markets call for alternative financial models.
Anant Kumar and Elliot Roseman
Should the power industry adapt its approach to capital markets in this environment? The answer, of course, is yes. Multiple frameworks are necessary to establish a power company’s or project’s current cost of capital, especially under volatile capital market conditions. The analyses reveal that in today’s capital markets, it is critical to balance or combine the alternative approaches to the cost of capital in order to develop a long-term view.
FERC’s ROE incentive adder policy sends the wrong signals.
Scott H. Strauss and Jeffrey A. Schwarz
FERC is offering incentive rates to entice transmission investment. But the authors identify serious flaws in emerging policy regarding return on equity (ROE) incentive adders. Determining whether and when ROE adders are appropriate requires a more deliberative approach.
Economic uncertainties raise doubts about utility returns.
Economic uncertainties are raising doubts over utility returns. Will regulators feel the need to consider broader economic effects when engaging in ratemaking? While reporting on this year’s rate cases, the author provides insight on what to expect as stock prices fall.
Part two of our series shows how utility companies can manage, but never eliminate, strategic risk.
The consequences of a flawed strategic choice unfold slowly, but they carry great weight. Consider IBM, which in 1980 chose to outsource to Intel the 16-bit processor needed for its entry into the personal computer market. The Intel chip, however, could not use the operating system that IBM had designed for its older 8-bit processors. And so the company had to outsource the operating system as well as the chip—to a startup company called Microsoft.
Incentives for transmission investment could boost postage-stamp pricing over license-plate rates.
FERC proposed a new set of regulations, under the new section 219 of the Federal Power Act, explaining in broad outline how it might approve generous financial incentives for new investments in transmission—incentives once dubbed as “candy.” As of mid-January, the new NOPR had spawned more industry comment than just about any other FERC proposal in recent memory.
Ahmad Faruqui and Robert Earle
This overview of ratemaking and rate-design principles should ease the myriad tasks awaiting new rate analysts and attorneys, while provoking nostalgia among industry veterans still manning the ratemaking stations.
Why current estimation models set allowed ROE too low.
A. Lawrence Kolbe, Michael J. Vilbert and Bente Villadsen
A material capital structure mismatch, which occurs frequently, can lead to material misestimates of the appropriate allowed return on equity, perhaps on the order of 2 percentage points. That is, a 9 percent estimate of the cost of equity can imply an allowed rate of return on equity of 11 percent.