Fortnightly Magazine - September 2011
Gaz Métro buys Central Vermont Public Service; Tortoise Capital Resources acquires interest in Public Service of New Mexico; South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper sell capacity, and more.
Technology opens customers’ homes to utility services.
Advanced metering infrastructure and intelligent appliances are opening the door to a new market for utility services. But in-home services are a completely different ball game. Going beyond the meter will require utilities to transform the way they engage and serve customers.
In the Pacific Northwest, you either spill water or spill wind.
The wind power industry has been up in arms ever since the Bonneville Power Administration earlier this year announced its Interim Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy. That policy, applicable during periods of high spring runoff and heavy water flow volumes on the Federal Columbia River Power System, calls for BPA to redispatch and curtail access to transmission for wind power generating turbines, and to replace that resource with hydroelectric power generated via BOA hydroelectric dams, in order to avoid having to divert water through dam spillways, which could threaten fish and wildlife by creating excess levels of Total Dissolved Gas (TDG), which can cause Gas Bubble Trauma. Yet the legal issue remains unclear: Does this practice imply discrimination in the provision of transmission service, or is it simply a matter of system balancing and generation dispatch? In fact, the FERC may lack jurisdiction over the dispute, as it pertains to the fulfillment of BPA’s statutory mandates.
(September 2011) Our annual ranking tracks the publicly traded electric and gas companies that produce the greatest value for shareholders. Despite the year’s topsy-turvy financial markets, perennial performers like DPL, PPL and Exelon return to the top of the list. Others face looming cap-ex burdens as regulators impose new mandates and requirements. Leading companies are positioning for growth, despite a challenging landscape.
Business models are evolving to suit a shifting industry landscape.
The next decade will bring serious disruption to the utility industry. But with cooperation from regulators and legislators, utility companies will be able to shift their business models to capture significant value—both in existing businesses and emerging ones.
New regulatory frameworks encourage electric infrastructure investment.
Under business-as-usual regulation, electric utilities must file more and more rate cases to keep up with rising costs. New approaches provide for modest but stable recovery of costs outside rate cases, while providing ongoing regulatory oversight and creating strong incentives for utilities to efficiently manage construction projects.
Smart grid evolution requires two-way communication—with meters and with customers themselves.
Despite the industry’s cautious and inconsistent approach, the smart grid is becoming a reality. Projects and pilots have provided valuable experience about what works and what doesn’t. Recent survey results illustrate the lessons utilities have learned—and how they’re changing their strategies.
(September 2011) Walgreens to install eVgo charging stations at 800 sites; Siemens and eMeter team up in Maryland; Glasgow muni installs Elster meters; ABB completes Mincom acquisition; JDSU acquires Quanta-Sol PV technology; Survalent installs SCADA system at tidal power project; PECO selects Telvent; plus announcements and contracts involving Trilliant, Sensus, S&C Electric, Navigant, Ernst & Young, PSE&G, Portland General Electric and others.
Does slow and steady still win the race?
When a capital-intensive industry enters an asset-building cycle, many companies will operate in the red for a few years or more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as cap-ex investments represent growth for shareholders. The devil is in the details, however, and companies facing a large slug of environmental compliance investments might produce disappointing returns over the next few years.