A look at issues that could keep energy executives up at night.
The most common strategic issue depriving utility executives of sleep is the looming clash of investor expectations for steady growth in earnings compared with what utilities can deliver given slow growth in customers and demand. While many dream of assured regulated rates of return, the reality for most utilities is that the 1.5 percent retail growth experienced between 2002 and 2003 will prove unsatisfactory for earnings.
Fortnightly Magazine - June 2004
Grid reliability is one giant step in mainstreaming the technology.
Wind power is coming of age in the United States. During the past five years, installations have grown by an average 28 percent yearly. Gleaming, high-tech wind turbines now are interconnected to the bulk power grid in some 30 states.
CPUC questioned historic oversight authority.
To guarantee the continued growth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) importation and use in the United States, the energy industry needs to pay close attention to govern the regulation, siting, and operation of LNG import terminals-issues traditionally overseen by the federal government.
Business & Money
Investors are asking utilities questions about environmental and social risks. Answers can be a challenge.
When the tech-stock bubble burst in 2001, investors were outraged to learn that many stock analysts were being paid to over-hype stocks. The following year, Enron's ugly public death revealed the presence of a virulent infection in governance of many large and respected companies.
Let's look back over the past few years-what we got right and where we went wrong.
Do you recall how you felt at your last class reunion? Well, that's exactly what an editor feels when asked to reminisce in public about days gone by at the magazine to which he gave his best years.
For Public Utilities Fortnightly's 75th Anniversary CEO issue, the magazine looked to the horizon and asked these new captains about the planned course for their companies, and for an entire industry.
How will the industry change in the future?
The utility industry of the future can be best characterized by three words: scale, synergies, and automation. Company leaders and the broader workforce will be touched by these three forces for change. We can already see glimpses of the future around us today. In response to the sweep of deregulation, many power companies no longer generate power. They have divested themselves of their generating plants, ceding that ground to independent producers to concentrate on distribution.
Investors are revolting against poor corporate governance, demanding tighter controls that will boost earnings and stock price.
A new wave of activism has risen in corporate America, driven by large institutional shareholders who claim companies have not gone far enough in their efforts to embrace good governance. These institutional shareholders maintain that good governance leads to superior financial performance and will not be satisfied unless the companies do more to implement good governance policy.
Like it or not, changes are coming for electric cooperatives. Fewer and bigger might be the inevitable result.
When power planners at Basin Electric Power Cooperative began trying to decide how and where the company's next big power plant would be built, they did what a co-op does best -they reached out and formed a coalition.
Board coordination is the key.
Many utility CEOs are happy to pass off risk-management policy to the CFO and the head of the trading desk. After all, with deregulation and re-regulation, collapsing spark spreads, hypersensitive rating agencies, and nervous investors, there is enough to worry about. So what's the problem? If the financial guys control and report the risks and profits and losses (P&L) within risk tolerances, why should the CEO be concerned about risk management?