The industry’s transformation has begun. Should the F40 transform too?
The New Tax Equity
With a shifting policy climate, equity financing for renewable energy projects is becoming more scarce. Real estate investment trusts (REIT) offer an alternative vehicle for bringing in capital from investors who aren’t seeking tax incentives. But restrictions and requirements make REITs a tricky way to finance power projects.
The coming cash flow and dividend stress at America’s electric utilities.
Government policies and the industry’s response has increased the risk factors affecting the quality of earnings at U.S. electric utilities. Deferred taxes and ballooning pension obligations portend leaner operating cash flow in the years ahead. Regulators and utilities will be forced to unwind these financial knots in future rate cases.
Recent years have seen fundamental changes in the supply and competitive landscape of the North American natural gas market. In response to high natural gas prices that prevailed during most of the last decade, gas producers in the lower 48 now have developed new sources of supply and technology, particularly to access new shale gas formations. These new supplies have encouraged a substantial expansion of the natural gas pipeline network in North America to allow the producers to reach end-use markets.
Second thoughts on transmission’s golden egg.
The electric utility industry offers up a wealth of ideas on how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission might reform its policy, adopted under FERC Order 679 in 2006, of granting financial incentives for investments in transmission line projects that ensure reliability or mitigate line congestion so as to reduce the cost of delivered power. Fortnightly’s Bruce W. Radford reports.
With meters running backwards, utilities seek a niche.
As states implement renewable energy mandates, and as solar photovoltaic (PV) technology becomes more economical, the market for distributed rooftop solar is growing. As a result, various players are taking different approaches to finance PV development—from net-metered residential systems financed by third-party leases, to grid-scale, utility-owned projects. Fortnightly Contributor William Atkinson talks to some major players in solar PV finance and examines the implications for investor-owned utilities.
(December 2011) Responding to Contributing Editor John Bewick’s analysis of factors impeding the nuclear renaissance in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Plus comments about construction work in progress provisions as a strategy for saving ratepayers' money.
A deliberate approach to infrastructure advancement.
The electric power system has been getting smarter for decades, as new technologies allow better analysis and greater control. But most utilities have implemented these technologies in a piecemeal way, rather than as part of a long-term, enterprise-scale strategy. What are the consequences of this fragmented and incidental approach, and what would happen if we developed the smart grid in a deliberate way instead?
Are merchant power assets overpriced?
By some measures, merchant power assets look like a bargain, selling for well below their replacement cost. But whether low prices signal a buying opportunity or a value trap depends on the outlook for electricity demand growth—not just in the long term, but also in the fairly immediate future.
With looming mandates and aging infrastructure, utilities need regulatory support.
The balance of stakeholder interests in utility ratemaking has shifted over the past decade toward achieving social policy goals. A more sustainable balance is required if utilities and regulators hope to preserve utility service quality and affordability.