Local Energy Production Disrupting Utility Monopoly Power


Throughout the summer, SNWAM has been researching the impacts of falling natural gas prices and increased renewable energy capacity on the prevailing municipal utility universe.  Our initial conclusion is that increased wind and solar power generation capacity and falling natural gas prices have the potential to disrupt municipal energy utilities’ monopoly on power generation and potentially undermine the existing transmission grid.  There are two major themes.  First, increased renewable energy capacity coupled with cheaper natural gas is undermining coal and nuclear power generators because of cost parity combined with the fact that power can be locally generated.  Second, the existing transmission grid is effective at transmitting energy from fixed sites like coal or nuclear power stations, but can be easily bypassed by locally produced energy from solar panels or on-site natural gas generators.  The possible municipal credit concerns are whether our existing municipal power credits can compete on price and retain their competitive position, and whether our energy transmission credits can support their existing infrastructure with potentially fewer rate payers.   In our opinion, our existing list of approved credits have the financial resources to comfortably repay their current debt outstanding; however, we will continue to study these emerging trends for potential relative value opportunities.