Elections have consequences, especially for highly regulated industries like electric utilities. And a prospective Biden Administration could actually get most of the way to its energy goals because utilities are already quickly moving in this direction.
It’s been a little more than 141 years since Thomas Edison threw the first switch on his famous light bulb. What at one time were literally thousands of electric operating companies have merged into just a few dozen of consequence. And not one deal failed to create a financially stronger utility, a record no other industry can match.
In March 2008, Southern Company (NYSE: SO) became the eighth US electric company within a year to announce construction of new nuclear reactors. A dozen years later, Southern’s pair of 1.1 gigawatt capacity reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia are the only AP1000s under construction in America.
Final certification isn’t until May 22. But preliminary voting results show a strong majority in favor of PG&E Corp’s (NYSE: PCG) restructuring plan, allowing the California utility to exit the bankruptcy it entered in January 2019.
These days, it seems every major US energy project is at risk to dissonant state and federal rules, regulatory delays and court challenges to permits. In fact, US energy companies might be excused for thinking America’s true energy policy is no longer “all of the above” but none.
It seems California Governor Gavin Newsom will not preside over a utility collapse as former Governor Gray Davis did almost 20 years ago, thanks to a legislative fix to state utilities’ bottomless liability for wildfire damages.
Almost 20 years ago, dysfunctional rules for California’s unregulated power market drove the state’s two biggest electric utilities into bankruptcy and impacted the entire sector. This year, the "inverse condemnation" rule has triggered one bankruptcy filing and may push the state's other electric utilities' ratings toward junk.
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