About The Author:
ROGER FELDMAN, Co-Chair of Andrews Kurth LLP Climate Change and Carbon
Markets Group has practiced law related to the finance of environmental and
energy projects and companies for 40 years. In particular, he has analyzed
and executed a wide variety and substantial value of project financings. He
chairs the American Bar Association’s Committee on Carbon Trading and
Finance, serves on the Board of the American Council for Renewable Energy,
and has been a senior official in the Federal Energy Administration. He is
a graduate of Brown University, Yale Law School and Harvard Business School.
Storm Winds of 2005
by Roger Feldman -- Bingham, Dana L.L.P.
(originally published by PMA OnLine
The future of merchant power depends on where capital will flow in the
future. Presently capital — from new sources including hedge funds, private
equity and other special purpose funds — has been directed to the trading of
existing assets, not the development of new facilities. As these plants age,
and their contracts expire, those existing assets become “merchant” in their
own right. So too do distressed assets emerging from Chapter 11. The
regulatory environment for them becomes even more pertinent.
Evaluation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 therefore requires
comprehending the entirety of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That’s why the
run-down which follows of the Act is entirely pertinent to all players in
the development or the resuscitation of the merchant power industry.
Viewed from the perspective of impact on capital flows into the utility
industry, significant provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (“Energy
Policy Act”) may be grouped into four basic categories:
1. Those provisions liberalizing the ability of parties to innovate in their
purchase and sale of market assets.
2. Those affecting the predictability of regulatory treatment of the
3. Those opening or closing new capital outlets for investors or potential
investors in the power industry or related energy areas.
4. Those possibly diverting capital investments to nearer term opportunities
in the energy field.
Here is a brief rundown of conclusions on each of these issues and a brief
summary of the Act’s provisions which support them. In the course of the
next two days, it will be informative to get the panelists’ views on this
characterization and evaluation of the Act.
INNOVATION-PURCHASE & SALE
1. The repeal of PUHCA, even though accompanied by redelegation of certain
reduced authority to FERC and preservation of residual state authorities
should enlarge the marketplace for new non-utility investors; contribute to
consolidation of utility companies and will place pressure on traditional
IPP ownership models of entities. This will be facilitated by the Act’s
partial streamlining of the merger approval process.
* Title XII, §§1261-1277 of the Act repeals PUHCA, which provided for, among
other matters, SEC advance approval for acquisitions creating holding
companies (10% ownership or more); holding company securities issuances;
intercorporate transactions; and multistate or geographically discontinuous
ownership of assets. The Act effectively limited third party, e.g., private
equity, managerial control of utilities and placed limits on the non-utility
business activities of foreign acquirers. To be substituted within four
months of the Act is FERC (and state) review of books and records related to
rulemaking and regulation of certain transactions among holding company
affiliates. FERC now also has regulatory authority for review of holding
company system overhead and cost allocations. Note, however, that the Act
does not repeal state authority over acquisitions, nor the merger review
authority of FERC, DOJ and the NRC, where applicable.
* Since a key element in FERC “public interest factor” review (as well as
DOJ and FTC) is the competitive impact of the merger, proposed mergers of
utilities of the same geographic market will continue to be examined for
adverse impacts. Specifically, Federal Power Act § 203 remains in place, as
amended by Act § 1289 merger review provisions. Key streamlining features of
this review are: contemplated in the act, required FERC adoption of
procedures for expedited consideration of applications. (Actions not acted
on in 360 days are deemed granted).
* Under the Act, however, there is broad expansion of the types of
transactions over which FERC would have jurisdiction. Sale of generation
assets only (even without transmission or other “jurisdictional assets”) is
now to be included within FERC purview, if the generation assets are used in
interstate sales; as are mergers of (a) holding companies and transmitting
companies now subject to FERC jurisdiction; (b) utility - non-utility
subsidies and (c) cross encumbrances of assets.
PREDICTABILITY OF REGULATORY TREATMENT
2. The basic emphasis of the Act is on creation of a more reliable grid, in
which efficient dispatch has been bolstered, although not enshrined in a
single standard market design. Efforts to improve the transparency of the
trading markets and preclude their manipulation are enhanced. While open
access continues to be supported as general matter and expanded to other
grid participants, the effective gutting of PURPA and absence of other
“wedge” measures for non-utilities to capture utility credit suggests a
further force for centralization of control of the utility industry.
Optionality value of investments will have to be assessed with this
consideration in mind.
BULK POWER RATIONALIZATION
* The other primary thrust of Title VII is to further facilitate the
rationalization of the bulk power system, although not in the fully detailed
manner contemplated by Standard Market Design. The key element under §1221
is the certification of an Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) to
develop reliability standards which may be enforced by the, Commission, ISOs
or RTOs as designated. Re-enforcement is provided for FERC’s authority to
assure non-discriminatory access not only to IOU but also to non-regulated
transmitting utilities under §1231. (PMAs and TVA are now also authorized to
participate in RTOs).
NATIVE LOAD PROTECTION
* Importantly, however, under §1233 the rights of load serving entities to
protect their ability to provide firm transmission service to “native load”
on a priority basis is protected. Retail utilities thereby are enabled to
afford themselves preferential transmission access to serve their “own
* Reflecting a similar Congressional inclination to bolster the transmission
system but reduce the extent of non-utility players in it. Subtitle E §§
1251-1254 amends PURPA in a manner which, in effect, guts the requirement of
compulsory “must buy” utility purchases and utility “must sell” provisions
which enabled QFs to optimize their power export capability. These
capabilities in particular provided a basis for the “QF” industry which has
existed since the ‘80s. The “must buy” requirement only applies if a
regional market is not “competitively workable” - a subject for dispute
outside of RTO regions. (It does not undercut state utility required
purchase standards for renewables.) The definition of qualified
“cogeneration” has been shrunk to basically limit the use of cogeneration to
the non-utility marketplace, while expanding utility ownership.
IMPROVEMENT OF TRADING MARKETS
* Markets using the grid are to be strengthened, FERC is directed by §§
1281, 1282 to enhance the power trading market by strengthening its
oversight and governance of abuses. Price transparency will be actively
facilitated by FERC, including the issuance of rules for the dissemination
of information about the availability and prices of wholesale electric
energy and transmission service. Injunctions may be obtained against persons
engaged in market manipulation. Rules to prohibit the filing of false
information and the use of “any manipulative or deceptive device or
contrivance” will be published. FERC is also directed to enter an MOU with
POWER INDUSTRY INVESTMENT-TRANSMISSIONS
3. The power industry activity to which most incentives for innovation is
given is transmission — both for investment and development of new
companies. In addition, the incentives for clean coal and nuclear facilities
may have a longer term influence on the market. Analogously, the regulatory
incentives for LNG should both attract further capital to this sector and
storage, but also may provide needed support for large non-distributed
sources of generation.
* The primary focus in Article VII Subtitle D on “Transmission Rate Reform”
is capital creation within the electric power industry is transmission.
Incentive-based ratemaking for transmission facilities is specifically
authorized to encourage investment and participant funding plans (even by
non-RTO members). There is also to be encouragement of deployment of
advanced transmission technologies. Taken together with the PUHCA provisions
permitting freer asset transfer, the possibilities for ITC creation are
* Possibly also facilitating development of transmission is an effort to
emulate the right-of-way siting authority which FERC has exercised with
respect to interstate gas pipelines (backed by eminent domain authority).
The DOE is required to designate “national interest electric corridors” in
areas with capacity constraints or congestion. Where states do not authorize
or otherwise impair project development, a procedure for Federal eminent
domain and “just compensation” — is provided. It may or may not be
sufficient to deal with all the permitting requirements presented at the
Federal and state levels.
4. A significant proportion of the Energy Policy Act tax incentive program
as well as loans, grants, loan guarantees, and research & development grants
are directed toward renewable electric energy technology including biofuels.
Analogous incentives are directed toward coal-based alternative liquid and
gaseous fuels. Some capital otherwise directed to utility finance seems
likely to be diverted in those directions — particularly where the financial
credit of utilities or refiners can be captured in structured deals as a
result of Act incentives. Other high tech loan guarantees and R&D incentive
programs seem less likely to have near term private capital diversion
* Of greatest potentially greatest significance in terms of capital market
diversion from traditional utility assets are the tax incentives provided
for different types of renewable energy resources, notably Production Tax
Credit for power production from specified qualified energy resources. Title
XIII extended the availability of these credits through 2007; enlarged the
list of Qualified Energy Facilities and extended the term of the credits for
certain of these resources to 10 years. The non-refundable PTC is as much as
1.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Merchants and other transitional assets must be acute to catch the winds of
change which the Energy Policy represent. The Energy Policy Act can be a
helpful gust or a storm warning.
ROGER FELDMAN, Co-Chair of Andrews
Kurth LLP Climate Change and Carbon Markets Group has practiced law related
to the finance of environmental and energy projects and companies for 40
years. In particular, he has analyzed and executed a wide variety and
substantial value of project financings. He chairs the American Bar
Association’s Committee on Carbon Trading and Finance, serves on the Board
of the American Council for Renewable Energy, and has been a senior official
in the Federal Energy Administration. He is a graduate of Brown University,
Yale Law School and Harvard Business School.