Technology Corridor

Microsoft's licensing practices push three utilities to re-evaluate their software needs.

Microsoft's licensing practices push three utilities to re-evaluate their software needs.

The foundation of the Microsoft monopoly over operating systems and productivity applications may be developing hairline cracks, if the experiences of three utilities are any indicator.

Ironically, Microsoft's overly zealous attempts to sign up customers for a yearly licensing subscription program may have pushed these companies, and others, to look at options like Linux and IBM's Lotus SmartSuite.

Technology Corridor

The instant messaging wildfire spreads to the utilities industry.

The instant messaging wildfire spreads to the utilities industry.

Utilities are starting to take a good, hard look at incorporating instant messaging (IM) into their business. (Never heard of IM? Check out our primer in the sidebar.)

Business & Money

Energy experts debate the pros and cons of the Bush administration's proposal to eliminate the double taxation of dividends.

Double Taxation Repeal: Fire or Ice?



Fuel Cells: White Knight for Natural Gas?

New technologies cloud the future for the traditional electric utility, but offer hope to the gas industry in boosting residential demand.

Investors apparently were paying attention in January when a Web-based analyst predicted Plug Power's stocks could gain 10,000 percent or more by 2010. Before month's end, the fuel cell manufacturer, which doesn't expect to turn a profit before 2004, saw a ninefold increase from the $16 closing day share price at its October initial public offering. That month Avista Corp.

News Analysis

Utility restructuring seems to prompt more lawsuits by customers.

In Chicago, Commonwealth Edison Co. settles a class action lawsuit for a heat-wave outage, paying $2.5 million for items including "food spoilage," to customers served by certain city substations. In California, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spends $8.3 million to resolve 98 percent of some 6,600 outage-related claims.

Turning Capital to Wealth: A Ranking of U. S. Utilities

An alternative measure of performance - not based on dividends, earnings growth or P/E ratios.

How to place a value on a utility company? That is the question.

The traditional models no longer work very well. Dividend discount models will not work well if utilities cut dividends and buy back stock to return capital to the shareholders. Earnings growth offers no reliable performance gauge either, as utilities acquire or divest large amounts of capital. Restructuring charges often become necessary to shift resources to their best use.

Collaring the Risk of Real-Time Prices: A Merchant Strategy for Utilities

Options and insurance each has a niche, but price collars are cheaper and more adaptable to market risk and customer behavior.

During the summers of 1998 and 1999, wholesale prices in the Midwest soared to $7,000 or more per megawatt, in comparison to a more typical summer price of $30 to $50 per megawatt. In a competitive environment, electricity suppliers - that is generators, utilities, marketers, etc. - will offer a variety of pricing products ranging from flat rates to real-time pricing (RTP). By varying degrees, price risk will be passed to the end-user.