Investors in California utilities, particularly PCG, have been thinking about wildfires a lot lately. People keep discussing the increase in fires over the last few decades, and that utilities could be at risk for some of the costs of the fires if their equipment is involved in the start of the fire, even if the equipment was maintained and operated in a manner that is considered best practice. A short article in Businessweek (see here) got me thinking that some changes are going to have to come to how wildfire liabilities are distributed, because things could get much worse. According to the article 10 million acres burned in the US in 2017, but this is far less than burned earlier this century. The chart in the article shows over 50 million acres burned each year in 1930 and 1931. (Note that the chart says that the reporting process wasn’t standardized until 1983, but even if the old numbers need some downward adjustment, those years are way higher than today.) It appears that the last half of the 20th century could be the outlier. With increased development throughout the west, there is no way a utility could pay for the potential damage caused by increased fires. We need utilities, and society will find to avoid their financial ruin from a threat that has a risk of getting worse in the future.
This week Garnet Research releases a new monthly newsletter: Berkshire Hathaway Utility Review. The utility business at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) has grown considerably since BRK acquired MidAmerican Energy in 2000. Warren Buffet likes the stable regulated returns that utilities offer. This newRead More
Today's blog from RBN Energy discussed the outlook for natural gas at the end of this winter. (See post here.) A lot of the issues in today's RBN blog are related to the natural gas discussion I had in my last SeekingAlpha article. (See November 2018 Utility Review) The RBN article helps showRead More
Recently Barron's ran an article saying that investors should be looking at preferred stocks today because yields have increased a half-percentage point on a number of issues over the last month. (See article here) The article list a number of preferreds, but none of them were from utilities.Read More
This morning's RBN Energy blog post had a good discussion about current natural gas storage levels. (see blogpost here) Gas storage levels are at the lowest level for this time of year since 2005. An important point the blog raises is that the natural gas market is dramatically different thanRead More
This week's Barron's had an article discussing how stocks have performed during periods of rising interest rates. (See article here) With utilities commonly thought of as a bond substitute, there was a bit of a discussion about the sector. The article put out the interesting statistic that overRead More
Seeking Alpha published my review of September's utility performance today. (You can find the article here.) This month represents a change in my Utility Stats Monthly publication. Now the monthly commentary on utility stocks which had previously been in Utility Stats Monthly, will only be avaRead More