Fortnightly Magazine - June 2006

In the Mainstream: Wind Turbines Take Off

New technologies are helping windpower mature as a viable power supply choice for utilities.

Few people understand how to ride shifting winds better than Jim Dehlsen does. Dehlsen founded Zond Energy Systems 25 years ago, and steered the company through a series of major changes and challenges—the oil-price collapse of the 1980s; ambivalent energy policies, with on-again, off-again production tax credits; and the sale of controlling interests in Zond to Enron in the late 1990s. Should it come as any surprise, then, that Dehlsen still is bullish on windpower’s prospects?

A Consumer Advocate's View: Decoupling and Energy Efficiency

Two sides of the same coin.

When I became the Consumers’ Counsel for the state of Ohio in April 2004, natural-gas prices were hovering between $7/Mcf and $8/Mcf (thousand cubic feet). In the next year and a half, Ohioans saw gas prices double, peaking at a residential statewide average of $16.89/Mcf in the month of September 2005. The latter reflects the exacerbation of prices, already high, by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the gulf region. The purpose of this article is not to focus on the national security and energy independence issues that arise from these circumstances, but rather to examine what we can do in the United States to ensure affordable and reliable supplies for residential consumers in both the short and long term.

Utilities Get "Defense"-ive

How cutting-edge military technologies can help solve some of the industry’s most critical issues.

Whether it’s an aging workforce, the impact of competitive markets, or an outdated transmission system, today’s energy and utility organizations are facing a whole new set of challenges. What many people in the industry don’t realize is that the utility sector is not the first to face these kinds of issues. The U.S. military is dealing with, or has dealt with, a strikingly similar set of problems in recent years.

Interest Rates Strike Back

The old paradigm—a strong inverse correlation of high interest rates and lower utility valuations—once again takes hold.

The recent breakout of the benchmark 10-Year Treasury yield from the recent mid-4 percent yield band to approximately 5 percent (with some market expectation that it may increase further) potentially has important strategic and value implications for the power and utility industry.

Merchant Power: When Hedging and Profits Collide

Does too much risk management mean leaving money on the table?

Why do energy merchants or those utilities with merchant power divisions obsess over “selling” their upside? These companies feel compelled to show steady, predictable profit streams to both the street and their stakeholders, despite the fact that they operate within one of the most volatile markets in the world. Typically, their method of achieving earnings consistency centers on the execution of complicated purchase and sales agreements that effectively lock in the price of fuel and electricity. Don’t these contracts really just eliminate the potential positive return an energy merchant strives to achieve in the first place?

Kicked Off and On Schedule

Cal-ISO files a new market design, but has it traded efficiency for software?

Eyeing a launch date of November 2007, Cal-ISO at last has come forward with plans for revamping its widely disparaged wholesale market design. The formal proposal, known as the MRTU (Market Redesign and Technology Upgrade), was filed this past February at FERC.

The CEO Forum: The Ultimate CEOs

What is leadership?

Fortnightly speaks to five CEOs who exemplify industry leadership: David L. Sokol, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.; Peter A. Darbee, PG&E Corp.; Jeff Sterba, PNM Resources; Peggy Fowler, Portland General Electric; and J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy.

The CEO Forum: The Ultimate CEOs: David L. Sokol

Chairman and CEO, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.

“Leadership is the recognition that we are fiduciaries of the customer’s dollars and we have to be as efficient as we possibly can be because it is their money and not ours.”

The CEO Forum: The Ultimate CEOs: Jeff Sterba

Chairman, President, and CEO, PNM Resources

“Any leader who thinks their job is only about articulating a grand vision is sadly mistaken. Success is 20 percent planning, 60 percent execution, and 20 percent luck.”

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