Some experts say that the upswing in mergers will help make utilities more nimble and cost-conscious, which should help them pump more juice into the arteries of U.S. power infrastructure. Meanwhile, the federal government is devoting more taxpayer dollars to states and localities to build a smarter grid.
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association of U.S. shareholder-owned power companies, said in its 2012 report that the number of publicly traded utilities has fallen by nearly half since 1995, primarily because of mergers and acquisitions.
Meanwhile, the EEI data showed, the same companies have invested heavily in building new plants and in expanding existing assets: New capacity grew by about 35 percent in 2012 from 2011.
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"Although we'll never be able to fully inoculate ourselves against Mother Nature, electric utilities are continuing to work with regulators, policymakers and consumer advocates on the most effective ways to make their systems more relevant," the EEI said in a recent report.
Accordingly, sluggish demand and a lack of pricing power are leading companies to seek savings where they can—but not in crucial areas that could jeopardize grid security.
"When we talk about finding synergies on the cost side, it's more from operating costs that enable necessary investment," Jeremy Fago, who leads PwC's power and utilities deal practice, said in an interview. "The industry is a whole is focused on finding efficiencies and deploying as much environmentally compliant generation as they can."
—By CNBC's Javier David