Buying TimeSlowly and cautiously, utilities are moving back into growth mode.
The air is buzzing with talk of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). It can be heard in the boardroom and on the trading floor. Bankers hear it, and they see their deal backlog beginning to grow. Fund managers hear it, as they hunt for the best buys in the market before strategic investors snatch them up. Financial advisers and lawyers hear it, too; their phones are ringing more than they have in years.
Utilities are finding strategic benefits in demand-based metering technologies.
It's been years since utilities regarded customers as mere check-writing extensions of their meters. In fact, utilities' information technology focus during the past decade has centered on gaining greater control over customer information. The objective: Focus on-and fill-customer needs. The results are everywhere:
The industry continues to debate the costs and technology of automated meter reading, even as some regulators insist on immediate implementation.
The collapse of wholesale markets has utilities once again making the purchasing decisions, and taking all the risks.
If a common theme is emerging from the various policy directions across the country, it seems to be that responsibility for supply resources is moving away from open markets and back into the hands of load-serving utilities.
News Digest was compiled by Carl J. Levesque, editorial assistant, Lori A. Burkhart, contributing legal editor, and Bruce W. Radford, editor. For continual news updates, see www.pur.com.Nuclear Power
Transmission & ISOs
Transco Independence. Granting Entergy's request for a declaratory order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled in a case of first impression that a stand-alone transmission company ("transco") would meet the test in Order 888 for independent system operators despite passive ownership by a power producer or other market participant.
IT TAKES LABOR, FUEL, OPERATING CASH AND INVESTMENT capital to produce and deliver electric power. Which utilities have managed to use these resources optimally to produce and sell kilowatt-hours? How do these utilities compare with each other? Is there room for improvement?
And what about financial success? Does efficiency, as measured by a ratio of inputs to outputs, serve as a reliable predictor of market-to-book ratios or merger premiums?
Some of these questions are answerable; others not.
STRANDED COST RECOVERY. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission allowed Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. to recover $2.9 billion of a requested $4.5 billion in stranded costs, cutting a higher $4-billion allowance proposed earlier by an administrative law judge. The utility petitioned for reconsideration on June 26, after CEO William F. Hecht had called the decision "unacceptable," and noting that the PUC's written order, received June 15, appeared "even more injurious" to the company that the PUC's June 4 bench order.
UNISOURCE Energy Corp. elected Larry W. Bickle and Harold W. Burlingame to its board of directors. Bickle is the former chairman and CEO of TPC Corp. and cofounder and managing director of Haddington Ventures LLC. Burlingame is executive vice president of human resources at AT&T and a director of the Work in America Institute.
John Devine, vice president of Duke Engineering & Services, was elected president of the National Hydropower Association. Devine has served as a director of the National Hydropower Association since 1993.