Utilities Remain in First-Quarter Black

By Published On: May 14, 2005

California?s utilities and their parent companies remain in the black, according to first-quarter 2005 earnings reports, and minus the spectacular downs?or in Pacific Gas & Electric?s case, ups?of the last few years. Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, reported $201 million in earnings for the first quarter this year, twice last year?s posting for the same quarter of $97 million. The utility posted an increase from $100 million for last year?s first quarter to $131 million. That was largely due to the California Public Utilities Commission?s approval of its general rate case and ensuing catch-up adjustments. Subsidiary Mission Energy, which had been a drag on the company for the last few years, posted operating gains of $25 million in the first quarter, compared to a $39 million loss at this time last year. Despite the upticks, Edison officials were tight-lipped and deflected analysts? questions. For instance, in response to a question on hedging, an Edison executive said, ?It?s a proprietary matter with respect to hedging?what we may or may not do in the market.? In contrast, financial analysts had few questions for PG&E. PG&E Corp., the utility?s parent company, reported net income for the quarter of $218 million, compared to $3.03 billion for the quarter last year?the time when it emerged from bankruptcy reorganization. The utility reported $219 million for the quarter. Last year at this time, it noted $3.1 billion in net income. Chief executive officer Peter Darbee noted this past year?s ?stable regulatory framework? for operations from the CPUC. One major thrust for the company will be filing an application this summer with the commission for a massive advanced-metering program. Darbee said the utility plans to begin meter installations in 2006. The program is expected to cost $1 billion over 4-5 years. For new generation, PG&E is currently going through a request for offers. The company expects ?some mixture of utility generation and long-term projects?from zero to 100 percent,? according to an executive. Unlike the other two utilities, Sempra hosted a talkative session with financial analysts after reporting first-quarter earnings of $223 million for the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, SoCal Gas, and unregulated energy developers such as liquefied natural gas and coal facilities. Last year during this quarter, Sempra posted $197 million. Of the total this quarter, SDG&E reported $59 million, up from $50 million last year at this time. SoCal Gas came in with $69 million, up from $56 million in the first quarter of 2004. Sempra LNG lost $5 million in the quarter, down from earnings of $6 million in the same quarter last year. While most of the specifics of analysts? concerns had to do with accounting details, liquefied natural gas remains a point of interest. Sempra is working with the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, the state of Alaska, Bechtel, and Yukon Pacific to develop Alaskan North Slope natural gas. The fuel would be sold to Sempra, and the company will assist in advancing an all-Alaska pipeline and LNG-related markets. LNG could be shipped out of Valdez. In addition, a natural gas pipeline could be built to Canada for Midwest gas supplies. Donald Felsinger, Sempra president and chief operating officer, noted that the state has not decided on a route for the pipeline but that Sempra continues to work with the port.

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