Part I: “Standing Alone,” But Owned by a London-based Private Equity Firm https://medium.com/@elisematz/standing-alone-but-owned-by-a-london-based-private-equity-firm-fd3bc74559a8
In 2014, UPPCO was sold to a London-based private equity firm. This article examines the Michigan Public Service Commission case that approved the sale, and whether the Commission and ratepayer watchdogs exercised adequate oversight of the deal.
Part II: UPPCO, Its Holding Company, and the Brontosaurus in the Room https://medium.com/@elisematz/part-ii-uppco-its-holding-company-and-the-brontosaurus-in-the-room-6f609e2904e7?source=---------4------------------
What does private equity ownership mean for UPPCO’s ratepayers? A financial analyst named Robert Benninghoff crunched the numbers and concluded that Basalt, the London-based firm that owns UPPCO, has engaged in an "envelope pushing" financial engineering strategy to maximize their investors’ returns. In February, 2019, Michigan Public Service Commission staff disclosed that UPPCO’s holding company is $200 million in debt, and that the debt had been downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service to below investment grade. Because private equity firms are not required to disclose financial data, we are not sure why.
Part III: Why Did UPPCO’s Ratepayers Cross the Road? https://medium.com/@elisematz/iii-why-did-uppcos-ratepayers-cross-the-road-29726776376a?source=---------3------------------ Michigan's monopoly utility system prevents most of the state's electric customers from choosing their provider. In the UP, this has interesting implications for the residents of Germfask, who live in UPPCO territory but are very close to Cloverland Electric Cooperative's territory. When the Michigan PSC and utilities try to spread the burden of high costs within a service territory, they are often only minimally successful in alleviating the financial pain of high rates.
Part IV: Maybe UPPCO Should Be a Rural Electric Cooperative https://medium.com/@elisematz/part-iv-maybe-uppco-should-be-a-rural-electric-cooperative-7ad334c1b20f?source=---------2------------------ As an investor-owned electric utility, UPPCO has a history of frustrated customers and anemic returns for investors. How did we get here, and could forming a rural electric cooperative be the solution?