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.
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.
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.
Business & Money
A review of power plant deals in 2004 shows that utilities are buying.
Sales of merchant generating facilities during 2004 signaled several trends that illustrate how the power business is evolving. After a nadir in 2002, sales turned up during 2003 and then more than quadrupled during 2004. The backlog of merchant plants for sale is thinning. Buyers and sellers are closing the spreads that led to much talk but few actual sales.
Dean Maschoff, James Pardikes, David Thompson, Michael Rutkowski, and Nainish Gupta
Sales prices for power generation assets in the United States during the past two years have climbed to unprecedented levels. This trend should continue. More than 20,000 megawatts of generation assets have been sold, with another 20,000 MW announced. During the next five years, it is expected that 70,000 to 140,000 MW will change hands. We have seen only the beginning of a massive redistribution of generation assets - from regulated utilities to unregulated marketers and plant operators.
In fact, the prices we've seen for generation assets may turn out to be bargains.