A Call to Action: Utility Infrastructure Trends and Priorities

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1 A Call to Action: Utility Infrastructure Trends and Priorities Discussion with the Montana Public Service Commission October 31, 2011 Prepared by The Liberty Consulting Group Quentin, PA

2 Liberty s Role in Advising NWE Liberty s clients are primarily regulators, with very few exceptions Our natural bias is hence on what best serves the customer in the long term, as it was on this assignment We were retained by NWE in 2004 to audit the management of T&D functions We were again retained in 2009 to: revisit the earlier audit findings advise on industry trends in infrastructure investment assess NWE s emerging vision for addressing aging and other distribution infrastructure challenges assist in the development of an infrastructure strategy and associated implementation plan Our work was especially motivated in that we saw NWE s aggressive approach as filling a serious need that is not being adequately addressed in much of our industry. 2

3 America s Declining Infrastructure According to ASCE: Evidence of declining infrastructure is all around us Virtually every category is at least somewhat deficient The cost of catching up, over 5 years, is $2.2 trillion The trend of decline is of particular concern, given that the catch up estimate was $1.3 trillion in 2003 In comparison, the infrastructure component of the 2009 stimulus was $150 billion American Society of Civil Engineers Annual Infrastructure Report Card 2009 Aviation Bridges Dams Subject Grade Drinking Water D- Energy D+ Hazardous Waste Inland Waterways D- Levees D- Public Parks and Recreation C- Rail C- Roads D- Schools D C D D D Solid Waste C+ Transit D Wastewater D- 3

4 Is America Crumbling? Much of America s infrastructure was built in the first part of the 20 th century and in some cases is 75 or more years old Minneapolis It is not uncommon to see: Bridges 75+ years Water pipes 100+ years Steam pipes 80+ years 4

5 Water Main Break Wash, DC

6 NYC Steam Explosion 2007

7 San Bruno Gas Explosion

8 Levee Failure - Katrina

9 Water Pipe Break Cleveland 2008

10 Gas Pipeline Blowout

11

12 NYC Subway Station

13 A leisurely drive in Southern California

14 Highway 90 - Katrina

15 Is America Crumbling? Much of America s infrastructure was built in the first part of the 20 th century and in some cases is 75 or more years old Minneapolis It is not uncommon to see: Bridges 75+ years Water pipes 100+ years Steam pipes 80+ years 15

16 Why? A miracle of the 20 th century that has been the major contributor to our quality of life what happened? Problems in how infrastructure projects are funded Technical challenges of modernization Fragmented responsibilities lack of a national imperative Maintenance challenges associated with aged facilities run to failure If it ain t broke... And this is all aggravated by the ever-increasing cost of catching up As we get further behind, the cost of catching up increases Eventually, catching up is simply not possible the cost of catch-up becomes prohibitive Some infrastructure is already in that category and such systems are relegated to a patch and pray approach Cost of catch-up $ $$ $$$ $$$$$$$$$ $$$$$ Age 16

17 Electric and Gas Infrastructure Has utility infrastructure fared any better? In fact, the forces at play have been even more severe. Consider three driving factors: 1. The funding model 2. Critical national factors relating to the ebb and flow of the industry 3. The priority of distribution in the utility hierarchy 17

18 1. The Funding Model Build facilities with borrowed money Users pay back the costs through taxes, utility rates, bridge tolls, etc. As the costs are recovered by the builder, the funds can be used for new or replacement facilities The costs recovered will be fully sufficient for new facilities, but only if the new facilities cost less than the originals This was often the case in the electric industry until perhaps the 1970s If replacement costs exceed original cost, new money is needed And the eventual source will usually be higher prices for the infrastructure s users This constant need for new money, even when the infrastructure may appear adequate to its users, is a primary reason why all categories of infrastructure have fallen behind 18

19 2. Ebb and Flow High load growth ended, probably forever, with the first Arab oil embargo The resulting excess capacity from the building boom meant distribution investment was limited for many years 1 The possibility of deregulation and competition in the 90s also depressed spending of all kinds, including capital This skewed the demographics of distribution assets, and the day of reckoning is... now. 1 There was a short-lived but substantive pick-up in the early 80s when historically high interest rates dropped significantly. 19

20 3. Distribution A Low Priority? Distribution A bread and butter business un-sexy Overshadowed by generation and, more recently, transmission Functions (extremely well) in the background Preferred target when cost cutting is necessary Consequences of inadequate maintenance and investment will be years away Not a societal priority no groundswell for better facilities Benefits of new investment are largely invisible to consumers When new money is made available, it is not surprising that distribution has always been at the end of the line 20

21 The Test If our analysis is correct, our hypotheses should manifest themselves in the form of: Limited spending trends over the years Actual growth in the average age of assets Declining reliability We respectfully suggest that such attributes have indeed materialized 21

22 Limited Spending Trend On a real basis, there was essentially no growth in distribution spending in the industry for a period of 17 years Spending growth including inflation during this period was 2.7% per year 22

23 Age of Assets 50% Age of Distribution Assets % of distribution facilities and equipment 40% 30% 20% 10% 2008 Survey of 500 industry professionals 0% Within planned life Near end of life At end or past life More than half of US distribution assets are either near or past their intended life The worsening trend in this regard has prompted many utilities to initiate aging infrastructure programs 23

24 Reliability Distribution reliability has been declining for some time The data is unmistakable: Each customer s time without power increased by 33% between 1992 and 2001 Each customer s time without power increased by 22% between 2000 and 2005 Given that electric outages cost businesses ~$100 billion per year, the impact on the economy of such deterioration in reliability is massive It is odd that a decline of this magnitude has failed to gain much attention in the industry. 24

25 Infrastructure Improvement: Why Now? The answer is different for each utility: Some have the time to do it right Some are running out of time Some are already too late But for all, the same challenge will still exist tomorrow, but will be: More difficult More expensive And hence easier to rationalize away The restraints to infrastructure improvement are real and formidable The solution requires leadership and hard decisions on the part of government, regulators and utility managers 25

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