Survey Uncovers Utilities’ Main Priorities

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 11th Annual Utilities Global Survey 2009, World Beyond Recession, U.S. utilities have identified two short-term priorities for the next 12 months and two longer-term priorities for the next five years. Similar to utilities worldwide, U.S. utility companies are trying to balance today’s tough economic environment with future demand by ddressing current challenges: difficult access to capital, rising costs and environmental concerns.

Short-Term Priorities

During the next 12 months, U.S. utility leaders have identified new generation and rate cases as top priorities, according to the survey.

— New Generation: Nearly 67 percent of all U.S. utility leaders surveyed identified new generation as a priority during the next 12 months. U.S. utilities are focused on new generation to meet demand across all sectors, and strike the right balance to ensure environmental compliance. New generation will be a key driver to ensure consistent customer service and to drive shareholder value.

— Rate Cases: Nearly 58 percent of all U.S. utility leaders surveyed identified rate cases as the focus for the next 12 months. For the first time in many years, a large percentage of utilities are filing for rate increases. The combination of rising costs, expiring rate caps and increased capital investment requirements are driving these filings.

Longer-Term Priorities

More than 90 percent of survey respondents agree that big changes are on the horizon regarding carbon emission regulation. These changes will likely compel utilities to construct new generation facilities, enter into new power contracts, and update and/or build a compliant transmission infrastructure.

— Next Five Years: U.S. survey respondents overwhelmingly identify more environmental regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as the biggest change the industry will face during the next five years.

— Energy Efficiency: Overwhelmingly (nearly 83 percent), U.S. utility executives will look to energy efficiency (Advanced Meter Infrastructure, smart grid technology, etc.) initiatives as one way to address climate change and environmental issues.

Second on the list is a focus on renewable fuels generation investment.

“We’re seeing U.S. utilities make hard choices about regulatory filings and new generation during these uncertain times, while also making long term strategic investments in anticipation of market changes over the next five years,” said David Etheridge, partner and U.S. lead, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Utility Practice.

“Utilities realize the environmental issues will have a significant impact on how they operate going forward, but they know they need to be realistic about costs and dealing with a constrained capital market to build new generation, and deal with transmission congestion and demand.”

In addition to the priority issues identified above, U.S. utilities are also focused on energy trading and product development as keys to strategic growth.

A World Beyond Recession, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Utilities Global Survey 2009, is a major survey of boardroom opinion inside utility companies conducted annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It includes data from 69 senior executives from 65 utility and utility investor companies across 39 countries. Research covers Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Most utility participants were senior vice presidents and presidents, CEOs and other senior managers. The report includes a series of regional reports covering the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa; and individual country and regional surveys covering the U.S., Canada, South America and Australia. It also includes viewpoints from leading utility company CEOs. To download the full survey report, visit: http://budurl.com/gxml

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