Volatile markets are causing delays, but most deals are moving forward.
Although problems in the power business grabbed the headlines early this decade, the industry now seems fundamentally strong. In contrast to their ratings of banks, rating agencies appear to have recently upgraded more of the electric sector than they have downgraded. It remains a strong investment grade, usually BB or BBB. For an index of 68 electric utilities, the debt-to-equity ratio averaged only 55:45 and return on equity exceeded over 13 percent through January.
The 2005 Act, designed to streamline projects, may fall short of that goal.
David B. MacGregor and Matthew J. Agen
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was supposed to streamline the siting process and provide a federal “trump card” for projects delayed at the local level, but it is far from clear whether these goals have been, or will be, achieved.
Does inappropriate market power explain the increase during late 2005?
Beginning around June 2005, prices in the PJM day-ahead locational market pricing energy markets and real-time pricing markets rose precipitously. Based on publicly available information, our study concludes that these price increases are not fully explained by higher loads and higher commodity fuel prices. Could higher energy prices be the result of the inappropriate exercise of market power rather than the appropriate result of market dynamics operating in the presence of scarcity?
Dynegy's David Francis, vice president for western power trading, testified on Dec. 21 on why he thought the ISO was bending the rules:
Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Bd. v. Kansas Corp. Comm'n, Nos. 85,750 et al., Dec. 15, 2000 (Kan.App.)
Docket No. EL00-91-000, 92 FERC
Mergers & Acquisitions
Docket No. EC00-26-000, 91 FERC ¶61,036, April 12, 2000.
Retail Energy Choice. At press time, Virginia issued proposed interim rules governing pilot programs for electric retail competition in electricity and natural gas, with comments due Feb. 24. The interim rules were not expected to resolve all issues, but only to provide a starting point to gain experience.
Among other points, the interim rules would require utilities to make information available through electronic bulletin boards on availability of commodity supply, ancillary services, and transmission and distribution capacity. Case No.
Gas Retail Rate Design. In a move toward equalizing rates of return between customer classes, the Oregon PUC authorized Northwest Natural Gas Co. to increase base rates by nearly $246,000, at the same time boosting residential rates by 1.3 percent but lowering rates for large commercial and industrial users. It set return on equity at 10.25 percent, finding the rate "consistent with the downward trend of ROEs authorized by other regulatory commissions." Order No. 99-697, Nov. 12, 1999 (Ore.P.U.C.).
Mergers & Acquisitions
Joint Ventures. The Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, issued draft antitrust guidelines for "collaborations among competitors" that will apply to a wide range of joint ventures and strategic alliances other than actual mergers.
Such collaborations would include R&D efforts, information sharing and joint efforts in marketing, distribution, sales or purchasing, plus various types of trade association activities. File No. 971201, Oct. 1, 1999 (F.T.C.), published at 64 Fed. Reg.