Tag Archives: utilities

Where to Go for a Sure Investment?

Used to be a sure investment
Soon to be a thing of the past?

That little wiggle you felt a few weeks ago wasn’t a result of overeating the day before. It was the world shifting. In a meaningful way.

As you may have heard by now, in May, Barclays downgraded Electric Utility bonds across the United States.

For the past several decades, utility companies of all stripes have been one of the best places to park money for safety and income. After all, turning off your power, water, or gas was the last thing you would do if you were in a period of financial difficulty. You might cut back on luxuries, wear your clothes another season, put off retirement savings(!), or even sell you car. By the time you get to the point of not paying your utility bills, you are in pretty dire straits; it’s one of the last places people cut expenses. Add to this the fact that if a utility get into financial trouble (whether of its own making or not) they have a great deal of power to raise their rates. The realpolitik of the situation is that the electric company has you over a barrel, and they know it. When you flip the switch, you want the lights to go on; it’s that simple. Most people will complain about price increases, but they will complain as they are paying the bill. Cutting out water, electricity and natural gas delivery to your home really isn’t something anybody ever wants to do. This is one reason that utility stocks are known as “widow and orphan” stocks; they’re as reliable as anything can possibly be.

Until now.

Continue reading Where to Go for a Sure Investment?

LED Lights: Bright New World

LED light bulb on the right
The past, present and future of household lighting.

At our house, the light has finally gone on. The LED light, that is.

A practical, affordable LED light (light emitting diode) is one of those things has been just around the corner for a long, long time. The chief factors holding the technology back were the a) the fact that LED’s are naturally directional, and b) the manufacturing cost is significantly higher than for other types of bulbs.

The fact that LED’s are directional is actually an advantage in some applications. Spot lights and accent lighting are much more effective when the light is directional. For general use, however, a bulb must be able to throw light in every direction. This problem seems to have been solved completely. My new LED light shines brightly in every direction, and in this respect, is indistinguishable from any other type of bulb.

In terms of cost, as is often the case, as manufacturers gain experience with a technology, they get better and more efficient at producing that technology. LED’s are no exception. Prices have come down from upwards of $50 for a single bulb a few years ago to around $10 for a 60 watt equivalent today, which is what I recently paid for my bulb at Costco.

In terms of performance, Continue reading LED Lights: Bright New World

No Communications Revolution Here: Verizon in Canada Wouldn’t Really Change Anything

Verizon: preparing to fleece Canadians
Obviously, the guy on the bottom is Canadian.

It was recently rumoured that Verizon, a major US broadband and telecommunications company, was interested in purchasing Wind Mobile as a way to gain entry and an immediate customer base in Canada. The rumoured price for Wind was $700 million. This rumour, if true, could have a major impact on the Canadian wireless market.

But it won’t.

To be fair, I guess there has already been an effect. All three Canadian majors’ share prices fell significantly when the rumour started making the rounds. I’m guessing that the reason for this is that shareholders are assuming that if Verizon, white-knight like, comes onto the scene, Canadians will be saved from those nasty, evil, price-gauging um, other Canadians (the three incumbents), prices will fall, service (both the coverage and customers varieties) will be stellar, and all will be well in the Great White North.

Here’s what people forget: Continue reading No Communications Revolution Here: Verizon in Canada Wouldn’t Really Change Anything