Fortnightly Magazine - October 2010

ARRA Sunset

A renewable incentive expires with the Treasury grant program.

With incentives under the Treasury grant program set to expire at the end of the year, green-power development once again seems to be entering the bust phase of its perennial boom-bust cycle. Statutory deadlines presage a surge in new construction beginning between now and the end of the year. What happens after that depends on Congress.

Main Street Gold Mine

Funds collected for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending.

The industry might be overlooking a source of capital for smart-grid and similar investments. Funds collected in depreciation accounts for cost-of-removal liabilities could finance capital spending projects.

Smothering Sparks

Enhanced standards of care for companies operating in fire-prone terrain.

Utility systems are responsible for a large share of wildfires that damage billions of dollars worth of property and threaten the safety of people and wildlife. Wildfire threats have escalated in recent years, prompting utilities and regulators to develop a more rigorous approach to mitigating the risk. Leading utilities are establishing new standards of care that eventually will evolve into national best practices.

Constant Vigilance

A holistic approach to smart-grid security.

In the new world of the smart grid, security isn’t a destination. It’s a sustained effort with ongoing investments across core areas of the utility enterprise.

Vendor Neutral

Itron deploys meter modules throughout Black Hills territory; Siemens to supply gas turbine packages to Mississippi Power; Cisco acquires Arch Rock for IP-based wireless smart metering applications; eMeter closes $12.5 million private-equity round; Enspiria helps NV Energy secure approvals for smart grid plan; American Superconductor invests in wind-turbine blade manufacturer; DOE selects 22 carbon-capture and storage projects for R&D funding; Petra Solar wins Sandia matching grant; plus announcements from Johnson Controls, Tantalus, Cooper Power, ComEd, UISOL, Convergys, SOLON and more

Transactions (October 2010)

Blackstone and NRG acquire Dynegy assets; Constellation grabs Boston Generating; Exelon gets Deere Renewables; plus details on nearly $7 billion in bond offerings during the month of August, including: a two-tranche, $2 billion issue by Chesapeake; NRG’s $1.1 billion flotation; and major issues from Sempra, Edison International, FPL, Detroit Edison, Dominion and others.

Dividend Debacle

Investors get caught in partisan crossfire.

Investor-owned utilities get caught in the partisan crossfire, as candidates engage in a national food fight over tax policies.

Letters to the Editor

(October 2010) AWEA’s manager of transmission policy refutes author Robert Blohm’s assertion that renewable power exacerbates America’s growing problems with frequency response.

People (October 2010)

Southern Company rearranges executive suites upon Ratcliffe’s retirement; Constellation hires new chief marketing officer; TECO names Ramil CEO; plus executive announcements at Black Hills Corp., Cleco, Tres Amigas, Chesapeake Utilities, Exelon, Vectren, and more.

M&A Uptick

Do regulatory and economic trends favor industry mergers?

Now that some new major transactions have emerged, and financial recovery appears slowly moving forward, utility mergers are beginning to appear likely again. Although regulatory hurdles still impede new transactions, some changes at the federal level are reducing concerns about market power and competition. Plus, changing market conditions and new compliance requirements are strengthening the case for scale economics.

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