(September 2008) Shareholder value remains strong as the Big Build begins. Our fourth annual ranking shows healthy growth in earnings and share prices. But as capital spending grows, dividends are shrinking and equity returns are weakening. Regulatory relationships will separate future winners from losers.
Volatile markets are causing delays, but most deals are moving forward.
Although problems in the power business grabbed the headlines early this decade, the industry now seems fundamentally strong. In contrast to their ratings of banks, rating agencies appear to have recently upgraded more of the electric sector than they have downgraded. It remains a strong investment grade, usually BB or BBB. For an index of 68 electric utilities, the debt-to-equity ratio averaged only 55:45 and return on equity exceeded over 13 percent through January.
Alliant’s 11th-hour deal to sell $783 million in transmission wires faces ex-post legal challenge
(February 2008) Alliant subsidiary Interstate Power & Light (IP&L) completed a $783 million deal to sell 6,800 miles of electric transmission assets to an affiliate of ITC Holdings Corp. The same day, Alliant issued guidance saying its 2008 earnings likely would increase by between 3 and 13 cents a share, driven partly by proceeds from the IP&L asset sale.
Rothschild investment banker Roger Wood explains why those new infrastructure funds are hot on utilities.
He was quite literally the toast of last year’s EEI Finance conference. Using his bank’s diverse resources (Rothschild vineyards in France), he arranged an unforgettable wine tasting that was a big hit with utility executives. Roger Wood, the head of Rothschild’s Power & Utilities Group in North America, is one of the few true white knights on Wall Street. Whereas many banks have developed businesses that can conflict with their utility clients’ interests, Wood says Rothschild’s bankers “live and die by providing long-term independent advice.”
Will the industry be able to meet capital investment and growth expectations?
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave states a new federally enforceable right to access holding company books and records, but concern remains that some of these initiatives may run counter to the goal of capital attraction.
Better designs are needed to realize the goal of lower-cost gas.
A gas procurement incentive mechanism that provides strong incentives for a broad range of procurement-related costs and revenues, using a benchmark that is both exogenous and adaptive to external circumstances, can benefit consumers.
Could local generators be used either to regulate voltage or control the power factor on distribution systems in New York?
Reactive power is becoming a hot issue in many regions of the country. Regulators and grid operators are grappling with ways to account fairly for reactive power supplies, and to encourage such resources to come online where they are needed. These analyses, however, are largely ignoring a vast fleet of infrastructure already installed on the network. West Point military academy, for example, has four small synchronous generators that are used for combined heat and power or emergency power applications. If these generators also were used as synchronous condensers, they might supply additional revenue to pay for the distributed energy investment.
FERC says it won’t ‘change’ the native-load preference, but don’t bet on it.
When FERC opened wholesale power markets to competition a decade ago in Order No. 888, it codified a system for awarding grid access known as the pro forma Open-Access Transmission Tariff (OATT), founded on physical rights, and on the fiction that electrons travel along a “contract path.” Should the commission “tinker” with the OATT, making only surgical changes to make it current? Or, do events instead warrant a complete overhaul?
Should transmission owners get paid extra for distance and voltage?
Business & Money
Experts debate whether KKR's leveraged buyout of UniSource Energy is right for the industry.
"From a public policy standpoint, should a utility that provides a vital public good be owned by a private group that gains ownership by taking on a high degree of debt (risk)?"