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Solar's rise in the Northeast not without doubters

Broadband Only Homes Skyrocket In 2018 Validating Top MSOs Connectivity Pivot

Street Talk Episode 40 - Digital Banks Take a Page Out of 'Mad Men'

Power Forecast Briefing: As retirements accelerate, can renewable energy fill the gap?

2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Fundamentals View


Solar's rise in the Northeast not without doubters

Despite several announcementsin recent days on the progress solar resources are making in the northeasternU.S., its long-term viability in the region has its doubters.

"Solar in the Northeastis ludicrous," said Jim Carson, CEO of RisQuant Energy, an energy marketconsultancy based in St. Paul, Minn. "Politics is driving this, certainlynot economics."

Timothy Fox, a researchanalyst at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy industry consultancy,acknowledged that politics are a factor.

"[We] think constituentsin the Northeast largely support renewable power, thereby providing politicalcover for policymakers to pursue clean power programs that could, eventemporarily, increase electricity costs or grid disruptions," Fox said.

However, in celebrating theinstallation of the 35,000th solar project on Long Island, N.Y., Presidentand COO David Daly in a prepared statementSept. 28 emphasized the role of economics.

"PSEG Long Island'scommitment to renewable energy is allowing customers all across Long Island ...to save money on their energy bills," Daly said. PSEG Long Islandis a unit of Public ServiceEnterprise Group Inc.

OnSept. 26, the U.S. EnergyInformation Administration's Electric PowerMonthly report included estimates of how much power from solar sourcesnortheastern states generated in July, the most recent month for which completedata is available: 261 GWh in New England and 398 GWh in the mid-Atlanticstates. At a heat rate of 7.5 MMBtu/MWh, that is the natural gas equivalent ofabout 2 Bcf and 3 Bcf, respectively.

For the first seven months of2016, New England solar resources produced about 1.3 TWh, which would equate toabout 10 Bcf of natural gas, and mid-Atlantic solar resources produced about2.1 TWh, which would equate to about 15.7 Bcf.

'Clean energy is our future': Cuomo

"Clean energy is ourfuture, and Long Island is leading the state in growing our clean tech economyand achieving our climate change goals," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saidSept. 28 in a statement marking the Long Island solar installations. "Thecontinued success of the solar market is fueled by the economic andenvironmental benefits of clean energy as we reduce emissions, help residentssave on their energy bills, and drive local job growth across the state."

spokesman David Flanaganlisted Cuomo's $1 billion NY-Sun incentive program and the New York PublicService Commission's set standard of 50% zero-emissions electricity by 2030among factors fostering solar power growth in the Empire State.

On Sept. 23, MassachusettsGov. Charlie Baker unveiled a straw proposal to replace the state's existing solarincentive program with a tariff designed to support the addition of 1,600 MW ofsolar capacity in the Bay State.

To meet the solar carve-outportion of its renewable portfolio standard, Massachusetts utilities must buyenough solar renewable energy credits to equal a percentage of the state's priortotal retail load. For 2016, those SRECs must equal 2.14% of each utility'sload, according to the state's Executive Office of Energy and EnvironmentalAffairs.

Solar generators make oneSREC for each megawatt-hour they produce, which are sold to utilities.

As of July, Massachusetts hadabout 1,100 MW of solar PV capacity in the state, EIA data shows, which is thesecond-largest capacity among northeastern states, after New Jersey with about1,400 MW. Of those totals, utility-scale solar made up 338 MW in Massachusettsand 452 MW in New Jersey.

Baker's proposal would allownet metering for existing systems, and tariffs would work by providing a setrate to be paid for solar power, minus the value of the energy produced. A pageof the presentation about the program labeled "illustrative tariffvalues" included initial tariff rates ranging from $150/MWh for owners ofsystems of 1 MW to 5 MW of capacity up to $350/MWh for low-income owners ofsystems with no more than 25 kW of capacity, which drew derision fromRisQuant's Carson.

'Hamsters ... on a treadmill' suggested as alternative

"Wow!" he said inan email Sept. 28. "For that much money, we should consider feeding cornto hamsters to generate power on a treadwheel."

The U.S. National RenewableEnergy Laboratory on Sept. 28 reported that solar PV costs in the first quarter of2016 were down from the fourth quarter of 2015 by 5% in residential, 4% incommercial and 20% in utility-scale sectors.

The Massachusetts draftproposal, which the Department of Energy Resources emphasized is "subjectto change," would provide for eight blocks of resources of 200 MW each,and the tariffs for each subsequent project would decrease by about 5%.

"SREC programs have successfullyincreased solar deployment in Massachusetts," the presentation states."DOER believes that a tariff-based incentive program would be [the] bestmechanism to continue supporting solar at the lowest cost to ratepayers."

At a distributed energy resourcepanel discussion Sept. 28 at the University of Pennsylvania's Kleinman Centerfor Energy Policy, experts indicated that ratepayers would benefit, ultimately,as solar resources reach economies of scale.

Carson noted that NewEnglanders currently have "very high electricity rates compared with therest of the U.S. and Canada."

"Once the ratepayersfigure out how much this costs, they will become much less enthusiastic,"Carson said. "A small amount of solar will not affect their average rate much,which is how advocates usually present these proposals. However, that is adisingenuous way to look at this. On a strict cost for energy basis analyzed onthe margin, solar costs several times more than conventional resources. Thecost of solar energy is at least double the retail rate."

High rates enhance solar's attraction: consultant

ClearView's Fox said solarpower is gaining in the Northeast partly because the region's high power pricesprovide "renewable energy with an economic opportunity."

Another factor in solar powergrowth may be environmental roadblocks for expanding natural gas pipelinenetworks into the Northeast, Fox said in an email.

"The Marcellus Shale iscurrently providing natural gas to the Northeast for most of its electricitygeneration, but incremental deliveries are being waylaid by environmentalgroups that oppose new pipelines that would bring the resource to market,"Fox said. "Solar may be one of the few resources available for the regionto generate electricity close to home."

Mark Watson is a reporter for S&P Global Plattswhich, like S&P Global Market Intelligence, is a division of S&P GlobalInc.


Technology, Media & Telecom
Broadband Only Homes Skyrocket In 2018 Validating Top MSOs Connectivity Pivot

Highlights

The segment stood at an estimated 23.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2018, accounting for 24% of all wireline high-speed data homes.

The following post comes from Kagan, a research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

To learn more about our TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) products and/or research, please request a demo.

Mar. 20 2019 — The U.S. broadband-only home segment logged its largest net adds on record in 2018, validating Comcast Corp.'s and Charter Communications Inc.'s moves to make broadband, or connectivity, the keystone of their cable communication businesses.

The size and momentum of the segment also put in perspective the recent high-profile online-video video announcements by the top two cable operators as well as AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia shake-up and plans to go toe-to-toe with Netflix in the subscription video-on-demand arena in the next 12 months.

We estimate that wireline broadband households not subscribing to traditional multichannel, or broadband-only homes, rose by nearly 4.3 million in 2018, topping the gains from the previous year by roughly 22%. Overall, the segment stood at an estimated 23.6 million as of Dec. 31, 2018, accounting for 24% of all wireline high-speed data homes.

For perspective, broadband-only homes stood at an estimated 11.3 million a mere four years ago, accounting for 13% of residential cable and telco broadband subscribers.

The once all-powerful, must-have live linear TV model, which individuals and families essentially treated as a utility upon moving into a new residence, increasingly is viewed as too expensive and unwieldy in the era of affordable, nimble internet-based video alternatives. This has resulted in a sizable drop in penetration of occupied households.

As a result, continued legacy cord cutting is baked in and broadband-only homes are expected to continue to rise at a fast clip, with the segment's momentum in the next few years compounded by Comcast's, Charter's and AT&T's ambitious moves into online-video territory.

Note: we revised historical broadband-only home estimates as part of our fourth-quarter 2018, following restatements of historical telco broadband subscriber figures and residential traditional multichannel subscriber adjustments.

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Q4'18 multichannel video losses propel full-year drop to edge of 4 million

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Q4'18 multiproduct analysis sheds more light on video's fall from grace

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 40 - Digital Banks Take a Page Out of 'Mad Men'

Mar. 20 2019 — Some fintech companies are making hay with digital platforms that tout their differences with banks, even though they are often offering virtually the same products. In the episode, we discuss with colleagues Rachel Stone and Kiah Haslett the deposit strategies employed by the likes of Chime, Aspiration and other incumbent players such as Ally Financial, Discover and Capital One. Those efforts conjure up memories of a Don Draper pitch in Mad Men and likely will enjoy continued success.

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Watch: Power Forecast Briefing: As retirements accelerate, can renewable energy fill the gap?

Mar. 19 2019 — Steve Piper shares the outlook for U.S. power markets, discussing capacity retirements and whether continued development of wind and solar power plants may mitigate the generation shortfall.

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Credit Analysis
2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Fundamentals View

Mar. 15 2019 — On November 20, 2018, a joint event hosted by S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Ratings took place in London, focusing on credit risk and 2019 perspectives.

Pascal Hartwig, Credit Product Specialist, and I provided a review of the latest trends observed across non-financial corporate firms through the lens of S&P Global Market Intelligence’s statistical models.1 In particular, Pascal focused on the outputs produced by a statistical model that uses market information to estimate credit risk of public companies; if you want to know more, you can visit here.

I focused on an analysis of how different Brexit scenarios may impact the credit risk of European Union (EU) private companies that are included on S&P Capital IQ platform.

Before, this, I looked at the evolution of their credit risk profile from 2013 to 2017, as shown in Figure 1. Scores were generated via Credit Analytics’ PD Model Fundamentals Private, a statistical model that uses company financials and other socio-economic factors to estimate the PD of private companies globally. Credit scores are mapped to PD values, which are based on/derived from S&P Global Ratings Observed Default Rates.

Figure 1: EU private company scores generated by PD Model Fundamentals Private, between 2013 and 2017.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence.2 As of October 2018.

For any given year, the distribution of credit scores of EU private companies is concentrated below the ‘a’ level, due to the large number of small revenue and unrated firms on the S&P Capital IQ platform. An overall improvement of the risk profile is visible, with the score distribution moving leftwards between 2013 and 2017. A similar picture is visible when comparing companies by country or industry sector,3 confirming that there were no clear signs of a turning point in the credit cycle of private companies in any EU country or industry sector. However, this view is backward looking and does not take into account the potential effects of an imminent and major political and economic event in the (short) history of the EU: Brexit.

To this purpose, S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed a statistical model: the Credit Analytics Macro-scenario model enables users to study how potential future macroeconomic scenarios may affect the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU private companies. This model was developed by looking at the historical evolution of S&P Global Ratings’ rated companies under different macroeconomic conditions, and can be applied to smaller companies after the PD is mapped to a S&P Global Market Intelligence credit score.

“Soft Brexit” (Figure 2): This scenario is based on the baseline forecast made by economists at S&P Global Ratings and is characterized by a gentle slow-down of economic growth, a progressive monetary policy tightening, and low yet volatile stock-market growth.4

Figure 2: “Soft Brexit” macro scenario.5

Source: S&P Global Ratings Economists. As of October 2018.

Applying the Macro-scenario model, we analyze the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU companies over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020, by industry sector and by country:

  • Sector Analysis (Figure 3):
    • The median credit risk score within specific industry sectors (Aerospace & Defense, Pharmaceuticals, Telecoms, Utilities, and Real Estate) shows a good degree of resilience, rising by less than half a notch by 2020 and remaining comfortably below the ‘b+’ threshold.
    • The median credit score of the Retail and Consumer Products sectors, however, is severely impacted, breaching the high risk threshold (here defined at the ‘b-’ level).
    • The remaining industry sectors show various dynamics, but essentially remain within the intermediate risk band (here defined between the ‘b+’ and the ‘b-’ level).

Figure 3: “Soft Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by industry.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

  • Country Analysis (Figure 4):
    • Although the median credit risk score may not change significantly in certain countries, the associated default rates need to be adjusted for the impact of the credit cycle.6 The “spider-web plot” shows the median PD values for private companies within EU countries, adjusted for the credit cycle. Here we include only countries with a minimum number of private companies within the Credit Analytics pre-scored database, to ensure a robust statistical analysis.
    • Countries are ordered by increasing level of median PD, moving clock-wise from Netherlands to Greece.
    • Under a soft Brexit scenario, the PD of UK private companies increases between 2018 and 2020, but still remains below the yellow threshold (corresponding to a ‘b+’ level).
    • Interestingly, Italian private companies suffer more than their Spanish peers, albeit starting from a slightly lower PD level in 2017.

Figure 4: “Soft Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by country.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

“Hard Brexit” (Figure 5): This scenario is extracted from the 2018 Stress-Testing exercise of the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the Bank of England.7 Under this scenario, both the EU and UK may go into a recession similar to the 2008 global crisis. Arguably, this may seem a harsh scenario for the whole of the EU, but a recent report by the Bank of England warned that a disorderly Brexit may trigger a UK crisis worse than 2008.8

Figure 5: “Hard Brexit” macro scenario.9

Sources:”2018 EU-wide stress test – methodological note” (European Banking Authority, November 2017) and “Stress Testing the UK Banking system: 2018 guidance for participating banks and building societies“ (Bank of England, March 2018).

Also in this case, we apply the Macro-scenario model to analyze the evolution of the credit risk profile of EU companies over the same three-year period, by industry sector and by country:

  • Sector Analysis (Figure 6):
    • Despite all industry sectors being severely impacted, the Pharmaceuticals and Utilities sectors remain below the ‘b+’ level (yellow threshold).
    • Conversely, the Airlines and Energy sectors join Retail and Consumer Products in the “danger zone” above the ‘b-’ level (red threshold).
    • The remaining industry sectors will either move into or remain within the intermediate risk band (here defined between the ‘b+’ and the ‘b-’ level).

Figure 6: “Hard Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by industry.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

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  • Country Analysis (Figure 7):
    • Under a hard Brexit scenario, the PD of UK private companies increases between 2017 and 2020, entering the intermediate risk band and suffering even more than its Irish peers.
    • Notably, by 2020 the French private sector may suffer more than the Italian private sector, reaching the attention threshold (here shown as a red circle, and corresponding to a ‘b-’ level).
    • While it is hard to do an exact like-for-like comparison, it is worth noting that our conclusions are broadly aligned with the findings from the 48 banks participating in the 2018 stress-testing exercise, as recently published by the EBA:10 the major share of 2018-2020 new credit risk losses in the stressed scenario will concentrate among counterparties in the UK, Italy, France, Spain, and Germany (leaving aside the usual suspects, such as Greece, Portugal, etc.).

Figure 7: “Hard Brexit” impact on the median credit risk level of EU private companies, by country.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence. As of October 2018.

In conclusion: In Europe, the private companies’ credit risk landscape does not yet signal a distinct turning point, however Brexit may act as a pivot point and a catalyst for a credit cycle inversion, with an intensity that will be dependent on the Brexit type of landing (i.e., soft versus hard).

1 S&P Global Ratings does not contribute to or participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
2 Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence credit scores from the credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.
3 Not shown here.
4 Measured via Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth, Long-term / Short-term (L/S) European Central Bank Interest Rate Spread, and FTSE100 or STOXX50 stock market growth, respectively.
5 Macroeconomic forecast for 2018-2020 (end of year) by economists at S&P Global Ratings; the baseline case assumes the UK and the EU will reach a Brexit deal (e.g. a “soft Brexit”).
6 When the credit cycle deteriorates (improves), default rates are expected to increase (decrease).
7 Source: “2018 EU-wide stress test – methodological note” (EBA, November 2017) and “Stress Testing the UK Banking system: 2018 guidance for participating banks and building societies”. (Bank of England, March 2018).
8 Source: “EU withdrawal scenarios and monetary and financial stability – A response to the House of Commons Treasury Committee”. (Bank of England, November 2018).
9 As a hard Brexit scenario, we adopt the stressed scenario included in the 2018 stress testing exercise and defined by the EBA and the Bank of England.
10 See, for example, Figure 18 in “2018 EU-Wide Stress Test Result” (EBA November 2018), found at:https://eba.europa.eu/documents/10180/2419200/2018-EU-wide-stress-test-Results.pdf

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2019 Credit Risk Perspectives: Is The Credit Cycle Turning? A Market-Driven View

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