Case | HBS Case Collection | March 1994 (Revised October 1994)

Reading Energy

by Forest L. Reinhardt


Reading Energy builds facilities that produce energy from nontraditional fuels. A privately held, entrepreneurial organization, it has spent six years developing a plan to build a waste-to-energy plant in the town of Robbins, Illinois. The plant would burn municipal solid waste, producing electricity for sale to the local utility. Its economics are driven by the cost of alternative waste disposal technologies (mostly landfills) and by the Public Regulatory Policy Act of 1978, which ensures a market for the power. Reading's project has been delayed by political opposition at both the local and state levels. Robbins is a poor community, and some of Reading's antagonists have invoked environmental justice as a reason to oppose the project. Tom Cassel, the engineer who founded Reading, is negotiating contracts for waste with nearby municipalities. He needs to consider price, risk allocation, and other economic factors, in addition to political and social issues, in designing his firm's strategy and tactics.

Keywords: Energy Generation; Wastes and Waste Processing; Business and Community Relations; Business Plan; Agreements and Arrangements; Contracts; Risk and Uncertainty; Government and Politics; Environmental Sustainability; Business Strategy; Energy Industry; Utilities Industry; Illinois;


Reinhardt, Forest L. "Reading Energy." Harvard Business School Case 794-102, March 1994. (Revised October 1994.)