Fundamental issues set companies and regulators on a collision course.
Industry leaders see a disaster coming, as the need for infrastructure investments collides with the economic interests of utility shareholders and customers. In a shaky economy and a politically charged campaign season, proposals for new capital expenditures are certain to cause trouble. Avoiding the train wreck will require real leadership in finding compromise solutions.
As I write this, I’m seated outside, in a camping chair with my laptop at a resort. It’s a lovely day; the sun is shimmering off the sky-blue waters of a lake somewhere in northern Wisconsin. Tall maples are whispering in a gentle August breeze. The kids are bicycling, playing and fishing with their cousins.
And me? I’m thinking about a train wreck.
Not an actual train wreck, of course, but the metaphoric train wreck that many utility industry leaders are saying they see coming.
They foresee a collision of needs and interests—namely, the need for infrastructure investments, colliding with the financial interests of utility shareholders and customers. They see troubling uncertainties—about politics, regulation and fuel price trends. And most of all they see a shaky economy, still reeling from unemployment and the housing crisis, and straining under the weight of a record-breaking national debt.