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PJM

FERC v. Ohio

Ohio ratepayers could prosper if natural gas prices rise in the next few years, boosting revenues when the utilities resell into PJM markets.
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"Ohio ratepayers could prosper if natural gas prices rise in the next few years, boosting revenues when the utilities resell into PJM markets." – Bruce Radford
Author Bio: 

Bruce Radford is executive editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly. Contact him at radford@fortnightly.com.

Will the Feds weigh in on the great Buckeye brawl?

Build to Order

Engineers and constructors adapt to serve an industry in transition.
From gas pipelines to PV arrays, the nation’s contractors are seeing growth in utility infrastructure. Fortnightly talks with executives at engineering and construction firms to learn what kinds of projects are moving forward, where they’re located, and what lies over the horizon.

Demand Growth and the New Normal

It’s tempting to attribute the recent slowdown in electricity demand growth entirely to the Great Recession, but consumption growth rates have been declining for at least 50 years. The new normal rate of demand growth likely will be about half of its historic value, with demand rising by less than 1 percent per year. This market plateau calls for a new utility strategy.

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Figure 1 - Electricity Sales Growth (Two-Decade Distributions)
Figure 2 - Cumulative Demand Growth (2010-2035)
Figure 3 - Arc of Price Responsiveness
Figure 4 - Impact of Codes and Standards on Electricity Consumption
Figure 5 - Efficiency Gains of ENERGY STAR Qualified Models
Figure 6 - ERCOT Loads in Texas (3/9/11 and 8/3/11)
Author Bio: 

Ahmad Faruqui is a principal at The Brattle Group, and Eric Shultz is a research analyst. This article was revised from Faruqui’s presentation at the Goldman Sachs Power & Utility Conference on Aug. 14, 2012. The authors acknowledge research assistance by Jennifer Palmer.

Five forces are putting the squeeze on electricity consumption.

Bill Hogan, Unbundled

A no-holds-barred interview with the electric industry’s chief architect of wholesale electric market design.

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People In Power
Author Bio: 

John A. Bewick is Fortnightly’s contributing editor and formerly was secretary for environmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He holds advanced degrees in nuclear science and business management.

A candid commentary on current topics in electric restructuring.

Federal Feud

When Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays led an attack on the federal Springfield Armory in January 1787—the spark that ignited the federalist movement—he scarcely could’ve guessed that now, 225 years later, his spiritual descendants would still be fighting that very same battle.

Author Bio: 

Bruce W. Radford (radford@pur.com) is Fortnightly’s publisher, and Michael T. Burr (burr@pur.com) is the editor-in-chief.

The jurisdictional battle rages on, with FERC and EPA squaring off against the states.

Last Call

Conditions are ideal for utility financing—but not forever. Although interest rates remain low, policy changes weigh on capital structures.

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Figure 1 - 10-Year Bonds
Figure 2 - 30-Year Bonds
Figure 3 - Utility Bond Tenors
Figure 4 - Utility & Power Ratings Snapshot
Rising interest rates and unknown dividend tax policies could be a headwind for utility stocks. –Brian Tate, Wells Fargo Securities
Utilities have a  significant amount of capex planned in the near term, and bonus depreciation is not a funding strategy. –David Nastro, Morgan Stanley
There’s good reason to believe there will be a lot of M&A activity around contracted renewable assets in 2013. –Frank Napolitano, RBC Capital Markets
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Pay It Forward
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One way that some utilities have been getting ahead of market changes is by issuing equity to pre-fund costs they expect to incur later. This generally takes two forms: equity forward contracts, and mandatory convertible offerings. Examples include Pepco Holdings, which sold about $350 million in shares on a forward basis in March, and PPL, which sold about $270 million in April. Also, NextEra Energy issued $600 million in three-year, mandatory convertible bonds on May 1, and another $650 million in September.

Both approaches carry a premium, but they allow utilities to capture today’s high stock prices in a forward sale. And some issuers have found banks hungry enough to participate in equity deals that they’ll take a substantial haircut for the opportunity. (See “BofA loses $12m on bought convert,” IFR 1932, May 2012.)

However, terms likely will normalize as soon as the current confluence of forces drives utilities back into the equity markets in earnest.–MTB

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com.

Utilities are enjoying some of the best financing terms anybody’s ever seen. Is the party winding down?

RTO Tango

Utilities in the Midwest ISO want greater access to sell into PJM’s lucrative market. But that might require a virtual merger of the two RTOs — a move rejected seven years ago as too costly, and perhaps still impractical today.
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Category: 
Commission Watch
Author Bio: 

Bruce W. Radford is publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly.

PJM and MISO ran from the altar once before. Now there’s talk of a shotgun wedding.

Learning to Love Congestion

In competitive power markets based on locational marginal pricing (LMP), the facts sometimes conflict with popular belief. Most notably: 1. When there’s congestion, the books don’t balance, and ratepayers always pay more than the generators receive. The difference is sometimes called “congestion cost.” 2. Congestion in a competitive market doesn’t necessarily increase ratepayers’ costs; and 3. Reductions in LMP are incomplete and sometimes misleading measures of economic benefits of transmission upgrades. These three facts and their implications should be considered in transmission planning, market design, tariffs, and system operations.

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Category: 
Energy Risk & Markets
Author Bio: 

Hyde M. Merrill (hm@merrillenergy.com) is the proprietor of Merrill Energy, LLC. Richard D. Tabors (rtabors@crai.com) is a vice president at CRA International, and previously was a faculty member at MIT. The views in this article are solely the authors.’ They acknowledge the insightful help of J. Dan Watkiss.

Competitive market problems and their implications for customers’ net costs.