Fortnightly Magazine - November 2006

Regulators Forum: Taming the Utility Frontier

Policymakers are setting sights on new challenges facing utilities.

Utilities in the United States are heading into uncharted territories, and the regulatory landscape is changing accordingly. To learn what it takes to tame this new territory, we spoke with three FERC commissioners, a state regulator, and a Western governor.

Return On Equity: Regulators Trust, but Verify

Some recent utility rate proceedings cast doubt on new ROE models and “risk adders.”

(November 2006) Our annual return on equity (ROE) survey broadly shows a continuing decline in the level of debate over issues specific to restructuring of the electric market. It also reveals a subtle shift back to investor requirements and overall business risks faced by regulated companies.

Power Procurement: What's in Your Mix?

Why competitive markets are scaring regulators.

If the underlying wholesale electricity markets from which supplies are procured are competitive, then the remaining concerns regarding price levels and volatility can be addressed through regulatory policies.

The Fallacy of High Prices

We are better off under restructured electric markets.

The most important action regulators can take to minimize consumer electricity costs is, and will continue to be, ensuring competitive wholesale markets, while demanding a rich mixture of products from the suppliers in these markets.

Demystifying Intelligent Networks

Why the next wave of transformation is already upon us.

The electricity system in the United States received renewed attention after the August 2003 blackout that affected more than 50 million customers across the Northeast United States and caused billions of dollars of damage to the U.S. economy. This blackout became a call to action as the event exposed the United States’ dependency on a vulnerable infrastructure. The intelligent network is one of the results of that call to action.

Letters to the Editor

Ken Glozer, President, OMB Professionals Inc.: “The Geopolitics of the Grid” was well done. I enjoyed reading it. Regarding the paragraph raising questions about why there are major disparities in retail electric rates from one region of the country to another, one major contributing reason is archaic and unfair federal subsidies.

Anonymous: “Gravy Train” articulately summarized the emerging tension between utility executive compensation and “return to basics” corporate strategies.

People

(November 2007) Public Service Enterprise Group elected Ralph Izzo president and COO of the company and a member of the board of directors. Ralph LaRossa is president and COO of PSEG’s utility business, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. WGL Holdings Inc., and its subsidiary, Washington Gas Light Co., named Douglas Staebler vice president of engineering and construction, and Lauren Foley named vice president of consumer services. ISO New England Inc. elected two new board members: Richard A. Abdoo and Paul F. Levy. And others.

An Unacceptable Outcome

Mixed signals leave developers wary of building new infrastructure.

FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher gives mixed signals that leave developers wary of committing to investments in new infrastructure, given his clear desire to affect positive change, while appearing to argue for policy decisions that are politically safe but arguably inconsistent.

LNG as Price Taker

And its impact on power generation.

While oil and gas prices now are falling after the latest experience with fuel-price volatility, the Global Energy Decision fuels team is focused on modeling an integrated world-wide system of fuel relationships encompassing crude oil, natural gas, coal, and increasingly, synfuels to help our clients assess the implications of fuel-price swings on their businesses. Let’s look at the potential impacts and implications of this growing reliance on liquefied natural gas for North America’s power-generation demand.

Miles to Go

Progress has been made, but much work remains along the path to ERO completion.

FERC demonstrated strong leadership in meeting the aggressive timeline set by Congress for establishing the regulatory basis on which the Electric Reliability Organization will be created. But next summer’s peak-demand season is fast approaching. And much more work remains ahead for the industry to finish the job.

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