Breakingviews

Southern’s $12 bln deal could find true north

August 24, 2015

The hefty 38 pct premium it’s paying for AGL looks rich for the utility sector. Though Southern isn’t giving a synergy figure, hacking out over 6 percent of costs would help justify the price. Previous mergers like Duke’s acquisition of Progress at least suggest it’s achievable.

UK faces risk of cold-weather blackouts

December 30, 2014

Britain’s electricity system is ageing and the mix of generating technology is changing. Both factors increase the danger of power cuts at peak times. Contingency plans include paying companies to accept temporary grid outages. New capacity can’t come soon enough.

Dynegy’s $6.25 bln grab marks return of ambition

By Christopher Swann
August 22, 2014

The U.S. power company once tried to buy Enron and eventually went bust after a spat with activist Carl Icahn. Two years out of bankruptcy, Dynegy is roughly doubling its business with two deals. They look sensible, but the lesson from the past is to avoid getting carried away.

Declining U.S. coal still has bright spots

By Christopher Swann
March 19, 2012

You wouldn’t know it: coal’s share of U.S. power generation has dipped below 40 pct for the first time since 1978. Cheap gas and tougher pollution rules should extend the trend. But investors can still make winning bets if they plan for the industry’s decline.

U.S. utilities face German-style solar burn

By Christopher Swann
January 3, 2014

Solar power accounts for just 1 pct of U.S. electricity production, against 10 pct in Germany. But generators stateside are already feeling the heat and pushing for levies on solar panels. They’re keen to avoid the scorched profit seen at traditional Teutonic utilities like E.ON.

The fantasy of a U.S. super-grid

October 15, 2009

The United States will need to invest $50-100 billion to upgrade and extend its high-voltage electricity transmission network in the next 15 years, according to industry estimates, to meet growing demand, relieve existing congestion and accommodate a higher share of wind and solar power on the grid. Legislation before Congress would provide federal loan guarantees and other support. But while visionaries talk about creating a nationwide "super-grid" carrying solar energy from the Mojave and wind power from the plains to load centres on the east coast, most of the investment needed will be in more prosaic projects to strengthen local networks and improve regional transmission over shorter distances.