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Stock Analyst Update

Biden's Green Agenda Offers Utilities Growth Potential

We believe tighter environmental regulations are a net positive for most utilities.

We are reaffirming our fair value estimates, moat ratings, and moat trend ratings for U.S. utilities after President Joe Biden kicked off his environmental policymaking efforts. We consider the sector fairly valued.

We believe tighter environmental regulations are a net positive for most utilities. Growth investments in renewable energy, grid modernization, and electric vehicles should outweigh higher regulatory, operational, and financial risk. We forecast that the U.S. utilities we cover will invest $656 billion over the next five years, more than consensus expects and up from the $541 billion spent in the past five years. This supports our 5.5% average annual industry earnings growth outlook through 2024.

Biden’s recommitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement won’t have a material near-term impact on utilities. Most utilities’ investment plans already reflect similar climate goals with support from state regulators and policymakers.

Investors should watch Biden’s approach as the third president this decade to propose power plant emissions regulations. Courts have set a narrow path between Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court stayed in 2016, and Donald Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which was vacated by appeal on Jan. 19. We think it will be even tougher to get emissions legislation through Congress.

We expect emissions-reduction investments will remain a key growth driver for utilities because of state policies and demand from customers and investors. As the federal government has dithered, power plant carbon emissions have fallen 25% during the last decade due to economics and state policymaking. We forecast that natural gas generation will continue stealing market share from coal and renewable energy will double its market share by 2030.

We agree with consensus that Biden’s interim goal of net-zero carbon emissions for the power industry by 2035 is unachievable with current technology and potential cost. A 2050 goal is more reasonable.

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