FirstEnergy's CEO Discusses Q2 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

FirstEnergy Corporation (FE)

Q2 2012 Earnings Call

August 7, 2012 1:00 PM ET


Irene Prezelj – VP, IR

Tony Alexander – President and CEO

Mark Clark – EVP and CFO

James Pearson – VP and Treasurer

Donald Schneider – President

Leila Vespoli – EVP, General Counsel


Dan Eggers – Credit Suisse

Julien Dumoulin-Smith – UBS

Gregg Orrill – Barclays

Ashar Khan – Visium

Stephen Byrd – Morgan Stanley

Paul Patterson – Glenrock Associates

Paul Ridzon – KeyBanc

Hugh Wynne – Sanford Bernstein

Andrew Levi – Avon Capital



Greetings and welcome to the FirstEnergy Corp. Second Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Irene Prezelj, Vice President, Investor Relations for FirstEnergy Corp. Thank you. Ms. Prezelj. You may begin.

Irene Prezelj

Thank you, Latonya, and good afternoon. During this conference call, we will make various forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Safe Harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements with respect to revenues, earnings, performance, strategies, prospects, and other aspects of the business of FirstEnergy Corp. are based on current expectations that are subject to risks and uncertainties. A number of factors could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements.

Please read the Safe Harbor statement contained in the Consolidated Report to the Financial Community, which was released earlier today and is also available on our website under the Earnings Release link. Reconciliations to GAAP for the non-GAAP earnings measures we will be referring to today are also contained in that report as well as on the Investor Information section on our website at

Participating in today’s call are Tony Alexander, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mark Clark, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Leila Vespoli, Executive Vice President and General Counsel; Donny Schneider, President of FirstEnergy Solutions; Jim Pearson, Senior Vice President and Treasurer; and Harvey Wagner, Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer. I will now turn the call over to Tony.

Tony Alexander

Thanks Irene and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us. Today, I’ll provide an update on our plant and retail operations, regulatory matters and the impact of recent storms. I’ll finish with a discussion of our non-GAAP earnings guidance, and then Mark will talk about our earnings drivers and provide the detail on our second quarter results.

Let’s get started with an update on our generating units. As mentioned on previous occasions, we’ve been rigorously evaluating the environmental controls that will be needed to meet the new environmental regulations including the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule or MATS that is scheduled to go into effect in 2015.

As a result of this analysis, we have significantly reduced our projected capital investment related to MATS compliance. We now estimate investment of about $975 million across our Fossil Fleet. This is down from the $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion estimate we provided in February and well below our initial projections of $2 billion to $3 billion. While we still have work to do to confirm and refine our current estimate, we’re clearly moving in the right direction.

At the same time, we’re moving forward with our previously announced plan to deactivate units at seven of our older coal-fired plants by September 1st of this year. Again, as a result of the MATS and other environmental rules, the effective units are Eastlake 4 and 5, Bay Shore 2, 3 and 4 and the Armstrong or R. Paul Smith, Albright, Willow Island and Rivesville plants. We expect to continue operating Eastlake 1 through 3, Lakeshore and Ashtabula until early 2015 coinciding with the conclusion of reliability must run or RMR arrangements with the PJM interconnection. We filed with FERC regarding RMR compensation for these units in July.

As you recall, we also proposed to construct four gas-fired simple cycle peaking units totaling 832 megawatts at the Eastlake plant. This proposal was contingent on the capacity clearing the PJM capacity auction which was held in May. However, these units did not clear and as a result we will not proceed with their construction at this time.

As we make changes in our generating fleet, we are moving forward with a number of transmission projects that have been approved by PJM and will be implemented over the next several years in practically all of our service territories Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland. A number of these projects are specifically designed to help address potential issues related to plant deactivations in the ATSI zone in northern Ohio.

One of those projects includes converting the Eastlake and Lake Shore units to synchronous condensers. We are currently projecting a capital spend of $700 million to $900 million through 2016 for these transmission related projects across the five state region, and we expect these transmission investments to be an important part of our growth going forward.

Now, let’s move now to a review of current regulatory activity. In New Jersey, the Board of Public Utilities agreed with the rate counsel’s request for a base rate case for our JCP&L utility. We continue to believe that there is no basis for the rate counsel’s claims, in fact JCP&L’s rates have decreased by approximately 10% since 2008 and are the lowest electric rates among the four New Jersey electric distribution companies regulated by the BPU.

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