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Barclays downgrades US power sector over solar threat

Utilities used to be safest of non-cyclical stocks;  predictable cash-flows (and hence dividends) from highly regulated markets make utility stocks a key part of income portfolios.

Barclays are of the view that this may not be going to last.  The UK bank has issued advice to it’s clients warning of increased risk in investing in debt issued to US energy utilities.

In a report that makes gloomy reading for investors in utility bonds and stocks,  Barclays state:
"In the 100+ year history of the electric utility industry, there has never before been a truly cost-competitive substitute available for grid power. We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organisation and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade."

The credit strategy team said its analysis had shown that solar power, coupled with new storage technologies, is already competitive with grid-sourced electricity in Hawaii and could reach  grid parity in California in 2017, New York and Arizona in 2018, and "many other states soon after".

This downgrade comes hard on the heels on claims from Chinese solar manufacturer Wuxi Suntech that solar energy will be as cheap as coal fired plants as soon as 2016. 

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