Fortnightly Magazine - October 15 1995

S&P: Municipal Tactics as Effective as Mergers

Standard & Poor's (S&P) CreditWeek Municipal notes that municipal electric utilities are resisting the investor-owned utility (IOU) merger trend in favor of competing through internal cost controls and sharing of services. The main reason, according to S&P directors Marla Fox and William Cox, is that municipals are political entities governed by city councils or appointed boards, and mergers would result in less authority for those decisionmakers.

Central Illinois Proposes Direct-access Pilots

Citing a need to prepare for the emerging competitive marketplace, Central Illinois Light Co. has volunteered to experiment with direct access for all of its customers. The utility has asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to consider two separate pilot programs that will allow customers to purchase some or all of their power requirements from other suppliers.

Mortgaging Your Conservation: A Way Out for Stranded Investment?Andrea L. Kelly and Donald E. Gaines

When an electric utility invests in a resource to serve its customers, it does so with the belief that the asset underlying the investment can be pledged as collateral to secure debt capital. But what happens if the asset is not owned by the company and, therefore, provides no collateral? The following situations illustrate:

Situation A

Electric utility "A" chooses to build a small generating plant to meet the future needs of its growing customer base.

Perspective

One of the iron rules of competition and open markets is that there are winners and losers. Winners tend to win very big; losers tend to lose everything and disappear, through absorption or insolvency. As deregulation takes hold, high-cost producers and less adroit managers may find themselves steamrollered by emerging strongmen and entrepreneurial upstarts. These rivals may usurp segments of their business by bidding the job cheaper and still making money, leaving a rising tide of shareholder suits in their wake.

Commentary: Making Restructuring ProfitableRalph Cavanagh

Investments that minimize life-cycle costs of reliable energy services should be more profitable to utilities than those that fail that test. This perceptive article shows that Puget Power and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) share that view.Too many utilities still hesitate to finance energy savings that cost less than the displaced power production.

GAO Reports, TVA Retorts

The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) has released its report on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Financial Problems Raise Questions About Long-Term Viability (em a report that TVA strongly disputes.

Utility Finance After the TransitionJames T. Doudiet, John Higley, and Patricia Eckert

DOUDIET:Stranded investment has overshadowed other financial issues in the transition to a competitive electric utility industry. For example, what will post-transitional companies look like? Will they attract growth-oriented investors?

Utilities as monopolies enjoyed unparalleled access to the capital markets because price was based on cost. That structure assured the ability to raise funds under any and all circumstances, but it created an atypical industry.

GRI: Low Energy Prices Are Coming

The Gas Research Institute (GRI) thinks total natural gas demand, driven by strong underlying economic activity, could grow to more than 29 quads by 2015, a 1.5-percent yearly increase from 1994's 21.4 quads (see, Baseline Projection of U.S. Energy Supply and Demand, GRI, 1996 ed.). This latest projection "describes an era of low energy prices, not just low oil prices," said Paul D. Holtberg, GRI executive economist, baseline analysis.

According to the report, gas demand for electric generation will account for half the growth.

Otter Tail Pursues WAPA

Otter Tail Power Co. (OTP) president John MacFarlane is pursuing the utility's plan to manage the assets of a portion of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) for a five-year period, to smooth the way toward privatization of the nation's power marketing agencies (PMAs).

MacFarlane has written for support to the senators who represent OTP's utility's three-state service area: Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Larry Pressler (R-SD), Rod Grams (R-MN), and Paul Wellstone (D-MN).

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