Tag Archives: shareholder

Utilities levy an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens –Adam Smith

What’s next door to Georgia Power, also a Southern Company, and raising rates on customers who are using less electricity? Alabama Power.

Rebecca Smith wrote for WSJ 21 March 2013, Return Rates for Utilities Get Harder Look

Households getting electricity from Alabama Power Co. are using 6% less than five years ago. But their monthly power bills still have increased by an average of 8%, partly because of a lucrative rate agreement that the utility brokered with state regulators 30 years ago.

“an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens”
—Adam Smith

The deal allows Alabama Power, the state’s largest electric utility, to adjust its rates annually to maintain a return on equity, a measure of profit, of 13% to 14.5%. Now it is coming under fire from consumer advocates and one state utility commissioner, who argue that the utility’s profit levels are too high.

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Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead, and Coal is Crashing

Somebody is willing to read the sunshine writing: Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead and Coal is Crashing, as Kathleen Rogers and Danny Kennedy wrote for EcoWatch 14 Dec 2012.

As I wrote back in April when formerly coal-plotting Cobb EMC went solar:

Coal is dead. Nuclear is going down. Solar will eat the lunch of utilities that don’t start generating it.

Can Georgia Power and Southern Company (SO) read that handwriting on the wall? They can’t fight Moore’s Law, which has steadily brought the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy down for thirty years now, and shows no signs of stopping. This is the same Moore’s Law that has put a computer in your pocket more powerful than a computer that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1982 and was used by an entire company. Solar PV costs dropped 50% last year. Already all the new U.S. electric capacity installed this September was solar and wind. As this trend continues, solar will become so much more cost-effective than any fossil or nuclear fuel power that nobody will be able to ignore it.

Rogers and Kennedy explained this phenomenon:

The seismic shift in how we all use cell phones and mobile technology to access the internet almost snuck up on the incumbent technologies and the monopolies that made money selling us landline telephones and a crappy service. Now, we’re all using apps on smartphones all of the time. So too, the shift to a scaled, solar-powered future built around the modular technology at the heart of solar power—the photovoltaic solar cell—will come as a surprise to many. We call it the solar ascent, and it is happening every day in a million ways.

Will SO and Georgia Power continue to prop up that 1973 legal wall that inhibits solar financing in Georgia? Companies and even economic development authorities are starting to find ways around it, and of course there’s Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU) trying to wedge into the law as a utility. After Hurricane Sandy, rooftop solar for grid outage independence has suddenly hit the big time (Austin Energy caught onto that back in 2003). The U.S. military got solar and renewable energy back in Afghanistan and are now doing it bigtime everywhere.

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Coal ash and political spending transparency shareholder resolutions defeated @ SO 2012-05-23

Defeated, but with increased shareholder support this year, two shareholder transparency resolutions have been introduced year after year at Southern Company (SO), one on coal ash and the other on political spending. Here’s video of the political spending resolution being presented at the meeting, and here’s the text of the resolution. This year as usual the SO board opposed both resolutions, and as you can hear SO CEO Thomas A. Fanning announce in this video, both were voted down, with these percentages:

The reasons the board gave for opposing the political spending transparency resolution include that SO claims it is already disclosing everything it needs to. Much of that disclosure started in 2006 due to shareholder and outside pressure to do so. Center for Political Accountability press release 5 April 2006,

McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) agreed to disclose and have their directors oversee soft money political contributions made with corporate funds, shareholder activists announced today. The groups, Washington-based Center for Political Accountability (CPA), socially responsible investment firm Trillium Asset Management Corp., and the Central Laborers’ Pension Fund, are part of a nationwide campaign to bring transparency and accountability to company political spending.

In its own 2012 statement of opposition, the SO board noted shareholder pressure is having an effect on transparency:

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Nuclear’s “bet-the-farm” risk —Moody’s

Wonder why Southern Company couldn’t get private financing for its new nukes at Plant Vogtle? Because back in June 2009 bond-rater Moody’s said this:

But from a credit perspective, the risks of building new nuclear generation are hard to ignore, entailing significantly higher business and operating risk profiles, with construction risk, huge capital costs, and continual shifts in national energy policy.

In case that wasn’t clear enough, they spelled it out further.

Nuclear’s “bet-the-farm” risk

The NRC says about 14 companies to date have submitted COL applications, proposing numerous new nuclear reactors for power generation. The first of these COL’s is expected to be approved beginning in mid-2011. Many of the COL license applications include partners, but the next table lists the primary holding company entity behind each project, and our view of the activity level associated with the endeavor.

From a credit perspective, companies that pursue new nuclear generation will take on a higher business and operating risk profile, pressuring credit ratings over the intermediate- to long-term.

Moody’s wraps up with some reassuring words for financiers, but maybe not so reassuring to we the taxpayers:

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New nukes increasingly bad business bet for Southern Company and Georgia Power

Harvey Wasserman wrote for HuffPost 9 April 2012, America’s 2 New Nukes Are on the Brink of Death,

The only two U.S. reactor projects now technically under construction are on the brink of death for financial reasons.

If they go under, there will almost certainly be no new reactors built here.

The much mythologized “nuclear renaissance” will be officially buried, and the U.S. can take a definitive leap toward a green-powered future that will actually work and that won’t threaten the continent with radioactive contamination.

Those are the stakes. And in that high-stakes poker game, it seems Southern Company is doing a little bluffing.

In Southern Company’s (SO) Q1 2012 Earnings Call 25 April 2012, its CEO Thomas Fanning revealed another little flaw in the project:

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