Cyber and Physical Security:
Although NERC and other agencies are helping out, utilities still face internal obstacles.
Fortnightly Magazine - October 2004
For The 21st Century
So it begins again. After several financially tumultuous years, executives at many of the nation's top utilities can once again look to the horizon and ask the growth question worthy of a Caesar: "What worlds to conquer?"
Utility executives are emboldened by bulging free cash flows, improved credit quality, lower operations and maintenance costs, favorable regulatory treatment, growing service territories, and increasing demand for power.
Buying TimeSlowly and cautiously, utilities are moving back into growth mode.
The air is buzzing with talk of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). It can be heard in the boardroom and on the trading floor. Bankers hear it, and they see their deal backlog beginning to grow. Fund managers hear it, as they hunt for the best buys in the market before strategic investors snatch them up. Financial advisers and lawyers hear it, too; their phones are ringing more than they have in years.
When will utilities see the next round of deals?
With the substantial decline in utility mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity since the heady days of 2000, it's time to ask when M&A activity might return, if at all. Business combinations provide a potentially important means for a utility to enhance its earning and growth prospects, and one of the few alternatives available to achieve these objectives at an acceptable risk.
The Future of Fuel Diversity
The fragmented electric industry structure poses an obstacle to a more stable, diverse, and secure power supply.
Daily news headlines have drawn attention to concerns about fuels, especially the rising prices of oil and natural gas. Fears of interruptions of oil exports from Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela (take your pick) roil the energy market. But coal is not exempt from bad news, as production declines reduce output from Eastern U.S.
Higher payouts aren't enough over the long term.
The past two years witnessed the ascendancy of dividend yield in the valuations of U.S. electric utilities. The recent primacy of yield in utility-industry valuations is the product of a unique confluence of factors. The collapse of most of the industry's non-regulated growth initiatives has resulted in a market that attributes little value to the industry's growth prospects beyond that which has been historically generated by the expansion of rate base-1 to 3 percent.
A holistic, new approach to cost/benefit analysis.
The still-fresh memories of last year's Northeast blackout coupled with rising congestion nationwide have increased awareness of the electric transmission investment shortfall in the United States. Such investment, in the right locations, would have a highly positive benefit-cost ratio. But how much should be spent?
Operations & Maintenance
The process of calculating meaningful benchmarks is fraught with pitfalls.
Regulatory reporting requirements for major U.S. utilities provide a wealth of data for benchmarking studies. Both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Form 1 for electric utilities and FERC Form 2 for gas utilities involve the reporting of more than 2,500 unique data points per utility per year, across diverse aspects of utility operations, maintenance, and finance.
Will a back-to-basics strategy meet investor expectations?
It's an issue that is coming to the fore with greater force-the debate over how utilities should honor their obligation to stockholders. But this time there seems to be quite a difference of opinion over strategy-or so we found in our annual finance issue.
Peabody Energy named Charles "Chuck" Burggraf group executive of Colorado operations, responsible for Twentymile Coal Co.'s Twentymile Mine near Oak Creek and development of additional coal reserves in Colorado. Burggraf most recently served as operations manager of the Twentymile Mine.
Wisconsin Public Service promoted Charlie Schrock and Larry Borgard. Schrock is now president and COO of operations; Borgard becomes president and COO of energy delivery.