S&Ls won damages when the feds reneged on promises. Utilities could do the same.
It's tough to be a utility CFO these days. For decades, electric utilities have served both as target and conscripted agent of government policy. Utilities pay disproportionately high taxes. Utility rate structures further distort market forces with subsidies flowing from business to residential. These policies actually defeat market forces. To large measure, many of these market failures arise from reconciling the hangover from uneconomic policy initiatives.
Nevertheless, electric utilities certainly are not the only companies routinely buffeted by capricious government policy. When financial markets boomed in the 1980s, savings and loan associations fell victim to government policies devised for a simpler time. Only when many S&Ls faced imminent demise did the Reagan Administration induce stronger S&Ls to harvest the weak in consideration for relaxing the constraints on entering new markets.
The S&L experience also demonstrated how public policy can sometimes play out like a contact sport. S&Ls who climbed out on the limb got caught in the cross-fire as Congress chopped off the Administration's deregulation changes without warning. Many thrifts plunged immediately into receivership (em victimized by doing a deal with the government. Taxpayers picked up some of the tab for this partisan "gamesmanship."
Commercial nuclear power has seen its share of policy swings over the years. Government induced many utilities to invest heavily in the technology, promising a stable regulatory environment, capital recovery, a reasonable rate of return and custodial services for the spent nuclear fuel.