Tracking Global Power Sector Capex: What Are the Global, Regional and Sectoral Trends?

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Eric Selmon Hugh Wynne

Office: +1-646-843-7200 Office: +1-917-999-8556

Email: eselmon@ssrllc.com Email: hwynne@ssrllc.com

SEE LAST PAGE OF THIS REPORT FOR IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

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February 27, 2018

Tracking Global Power Sector Capex:

What Are the Global, Regional and Sectoral Trends?

We have compiled the aggregate capital expenditures of 850 electric utility, competitive power and renewable energy companies from around the globe using the Capital IQ data base. Our analysis of this data reveals a decline in power industry capex in all regions except North America, driven primarily by reduced investment in generation even as investment in transmission and distribution has continued to rise. While aggregate power sector capex rose by 18% in North America over 2012-2106, capex was flat in China over this period and fell by 22% in Europe. Based on power companies’ disclosed investment plans, global sector capex is expected to remain weak in the years ahead.

In the United States, investment in transmission and distribution has been particularly robust, driving a marked increase in aggregate power sector capex over the last five years. Based on the announced capex plans of U.S. power companies, investment in T&D is expected to accelerate in the coming years, likely causing U.S. power sector capex to continue to rise. As generation capex in the U.S. will recover only in the mid-2020s, reflecting an expected wave of retirements, we continue to favor transmission and distribution utilities over their vertically integrated counterparts.

Portfolio Manager’s Summary

  • We have compiled the aggregate capital expenditures of 850 electric utility, competitive power and renewable energy companies from around the globe using the Capital IQ data base. Our analysis of this data reveals a decline in industry capex in all regions except North America (see Exhibit 2).
  • In China, which accounted for 30% of the combined capex of the 850 companies over 2012-2016, power sector capex was broadly unchanged over the period.
  • In Europe, which accounted for 22% of the combined capex of the 850 companies, power sector capex fell by 31% over the period.
  • The rest of world, accounting for 25% of global capex and comprising the rest of Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Africa, saw aggregate capex decline by 14%.
  • Only in North America (the United States and Canada), did aggregate power sector capex rise over the period, increasing by 18% over 2012-2016.
  • A subset of the 850 companies analyzed provided a breakdown of their historical capital expenditures by segment. Together, these companies were responsible for ~67% of the aggregate capex of the larger group over 2012-2016. Based on data from this subset, it appears that the fall in global power sector capex reflects a steady decline in investment in generation. In contrast, capital expenditures on transmission and distribution have continued to rise. (See Exhibit 5).
    • Over the period 2012-2016, investment in generation among this subset of companies declined by 14% (-3.7% p.a.), while investment in transmission and distribution increased by 13% (3.2% p.a.).
    • Measured in megawatts, annual additions of generation capacity remained relatively steady over this period, but the mix shifted away from fossil fuel generation to solar. Fossil fuel’s share of generation additions declined from ~50% in 2012-2014 to 38% by 2016 and solar increased from 12% in 2012 to 28% in 2016. Compared to fossil fuel generation, especially coal, solar has a lower cost per watt of capacity, resulting in lower capital expenditures for a similar level of capacity. (See Exhibit 7)
  • A still smaller subset of the 850 companies provide a segment breakdown of their planned capital expenditures in future years. That subset was responsible for ~33% of the capex of the larger group in 2016, but over 50% of the capex excluding China. The investment plans of this group suggest that capex will remain weak, and that the share of generation in total capex will continue to decline: planned investment in generation falls by 21% over 2017-2020, while planned T&D capex decreases by only 12% (see Exhibit 6).
  • The U.S. data shows a similar trend to that seen globally, with generation capex declining over time even as investment in T&D continues to rise. Unlike the rest of the world, however, the increase in T&D exceeds the decline in generation, driving total power sector capex higher.
  • Based on the announced capex plans of the U.S. power companies, the divergence between generation and T&D capex appears poised to accelerate in the years ahead (see Exhibit 8).
    • U.S. utilities plan to increase aggregate T&D capex by over 40% over the next five years, from $196 billion over 2012-2016 to $276 billion over 2017-2021. By contrast, planned generation capex falls by 11% to $161 billion over 2017-2021, from $180 billion over 2012-2016.
  • Driving the growth of U.S. T&D capex is a marked increase in distribution capex over 2017-2021. While transmission capex will also rise, its pace of growth will slow, allowing distribution to capture a dominant share of T&D capex over the next five years (see Exhibits 12 and 13).
    • Distribution capex benefits from customer growth, as well grid hardening in Gulf and Atlantic coast states vulnerable to hurricanes, the rollout of smart meter and smart grid technologies, increased adoption of rooftop solar and, in the Pacific states, the growing penetration of electric vehicles.
  • We do not expect a marked recovery in U.S. generation capex until the mid-2020s, when the retirement of coal and gas-fired steam turbine generators built circa 1970 will begin to create a growing need for replacement capacity. This will be augmented by the likely retirement commencing in the late-2020s of the ~250 GW of gas fired generation capacity added over the years 1998-2005 (Exhibit 17).
    • While U.S. nuclear retirements will also contribute to this cycle, their timing is less certain. Some regulated electric utilities may apply for a second 20-year license extension for their nuclear generating stations, as NextEra just did at its Turkey Point nuclear plant. However, if the remaining nuclear power plants were to begin retiring in the mid-2020s and do so over a period of ~20 years, the retirements would add an average of ~5 GW per year to required new capacity.
  • Within the industry, therefore, the most favorable growth prospects over the next five years exist among the transmission and distribution utilities, and particularly those positioned to maximize capital expenditures and rate base growth in the distribution segment (see Exhibit 19).
  • Among U.S. utilities, we expect rate base growth in the transmission and distribution segments of ~10% and 9% p.a., respectively, over 2016-2021, while we expect growth in generation rate base of less than 5% p.a.
    • Of the publicly traded utilities whose regulated subsidiaries have the highest percentage of rate base growth in the transmission and distribution segments, we rank five among our most preferred utility stocks: Edison International (EIX), Exelon (EXC), PG&E (PCG), FirstEnergy (FE) and American Electric Power (AEP). (See Exhibit 1).
    • Conversely, among those utilities with the lowest contributions from transmission and distribution rate base are two that rank among our least preferred utility stocks: Portland General (POR) and Southern (SO).
  • The global decline in power sector investment in generation, and the greater stability of T&D capex, will have a differentiated impact on suppliers to the power industry.
  • Best positioned is ABB, which does not manufacture generation equipment, and over half of whose revenues are derived from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment.
  • While Siemens is a major supplier of fossil fuel generation equipment to the power industry, a similar share of Siemens revenues (15%) derives from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment to utilities and a further 8% of revenues represent sales to the rapidly growing renewable generation segment.The next impact of the trends discussed here, therefore, may be moderately positive for Siemens.
  • Like ABB, Schneider does not manufacture power generation equipment. As the bulk of Schneider’s sales of electrical equipment are to the building, industrial and IT segments, Schneider is also less levered to utilities’ purchases of transmission and distribution spend. However, Schneider’s sales of electrical equipment to utility customers may benefit from the trend towards increased distribution spend evident in the United States and the rest of its electrical equipment sales could benefit from the trend towards digitalization.
  • Most adversely affected is likely to be GE, 22% of whose revenues derive from the sale of fossil generation equipment, as compare with an estimated 6% from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment and 7% from sales to the renewable energy segment.

Exhibit 1: Heat Map: Preferences Among Utilities, IPP and Clean Technology

 Source: SSR analysis

Details

  • We have compiled the aggregate capital expenditures of 850 electric utility, competitive power and renewable energy companies from around the globe using the Capital IQ data base of information disclosed by companies with publicly traded debt or equity securities. Our analysis of this data reveals a decline in industry capex in all regions except North America, driven by reduced investment in generation, even as investment in transmission and distribution continues to rise. In the United States, historical investment in transmission and distribution has been particularly robust, driving a marked increase in aggregate power sector capex over the last five years.

Global Capital Expenditures and Trends

  • As can be seen in Exhibit 2, the combined capital expenditures of the 850 companies analyzed have declined steadily since 2013, and in 2016 stood some 7.5% below 2012 levels. Exhibits 2 through 3 break down this capex by region. As can be seen there:
    • In China, which accounted for 30% of the combined capex of the 850 companies over 2012-2016, power sector capex was broadly unchanged over the period, rising by 10% in 2013 and then declining steadily, returning to 2012 levels by 2016.
    • In Europe, which accounted for 22% of the combined capex of the 850 companies, power sector capex fell by 31% over the period, declining in each year from 2012 through 2016.
    • The rest of world, accounting for 25% of global capex and comprising the rest of Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Africa, saw aggregate capex decline by 14%.
    • Only in North America (the United States and Canada), did aggregate power sector capex rise over the period, increasing by 18% over 2012-2016, or 4.3% p.a.

Exhibit 2: Aggregate Historical Capital Expenditures of 850 Electric Utility,

Competitive Power and Renewable Energy Companies ($ Billions)

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

Exhibit 3: % Change in Aggregate Capex Exhibit 4: % Breakdown of the Aggregate

of the 850 Companies by Region Capex of the 850 Companies by Region

 

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

  • Based on data from a subset of the 850 companies that provided a breakdown of their historical capital expenditures by segment, it appears that the relatively weak trend in global power sector capex reflects a steady decline in investment in generation. In contrast, capital expenditures on transmission and distribution have continued to rise. (See Exhibit 5).
    • While not all of the 850 companies analyzed provided a breakdown of their historical capital expenditures by segment, the subset that did were responsible for ~67% of the aggregate capex of the larger group over 2012-2016.
    • Over the period 2012-2016, investment in generation among this subset of companies declined by 14% (-3.7% p.a.), while investment in transmission and distribution increased by 13% (3.2% p.a.).
    • As a result, the segment breakdown of industry capex shifted materially over this period, from 55% generation/45% T&D in 2012 to 48% generation/52% T&D in 2016.
  • A still smaller subset of the 850 companies have provided a segment breakdown of their planned capital expenditures in future years. This smaller group was responsible for ~33% of the aggregate capex of the 850 companies in 2016 and over 50% of the capex of the larger group excluding China.
  • Based on the announced capital expenditure plans of this subset, it appears that the share of generation in total capex is expected to continue to decline in the years ahead (see Exhibit 6).
    • It is common for planned capital expenditures to show a declining trend over the planning horizon. This is attributable in part to the reluctance of managements to include in their forecasts projects that have not yet received the necessary permits or regulatory approvals.
    • Even taking this into account, however, the trend in planned generation capex is relatively weaker than that for T&D: planned investment in generation declines by 21% over 2017-2020, while planned T&D capex decreases by only 12%.

Exhibit 5: Aggregate Capex Broken Down Exhibit 6: Planned Capex Broken Down by

by Segment (1) Segment (2)

 

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1. Data from a subset of the 850 companies analyzed. Taken together, the capital expenditures of this subset of companies account for ~67% of the aggregate capex of this group over 2012-2016.

2. Data from a subset of the 850 companies analyzed. Taken together, the capital expenditures of this subset of companies account for ~33% of the aggregate capex of the larger group and>50% of the aggregate capex of the larger group excluding China.

Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

  • While annual additions of generation capacity in megawatts remained relatively steady over this period, the mix shifted away from fossil fuel generation to solar. Fossil fuel’s share of generation additions declined from ~50% in 2012-2014 to 38% by 2016 and solar increased from 12% in 2012 to 28% in 2016. Compared to fossil fuel generation, especially coal, solar has a lower, and declining, cost per watt of capacity, resulting in lower capital expenditures for a similar level of capacity (see Exhibit 7).

Exhibit 7: Breakdown of Global Generation Capacity Additions by Technology

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Source: International Energy Agency, US Energy Information Administration, SSR analysis

U.S. Capital Expenditure Trends

  • The financial data provided by U.S. regulated utilities, competitive generators and renewable energy companies tends to be more detailed than that available from companies abroad, and as result we are able to provide more granular analysis of capex trends among U.S. power companies.
  • The U.S. data shows a similar trend to that seen globally, with generation capex declining over time even as investment in T&D continues to rise. Unlike the rest of the world, however, the increase in T&D exceeds the decline in generation, driving continued growth in aggregate power sector capex.
    • U.S. power companies’ SEC and FERC Form 1 filings document a marked increase in transmission and distribution capex over the five years 2012-2016, with T&D capex rising by 35%, from $33 billion to $45 billion annually, even as generation capex fell 5% from $41 billion to $38 billion (see the left-hand chart of Exhibit 8).
  • Based on the announced capex plans of the U.S. utilities and power companies, moreover, the divergence between the two sectors appears poised to accelerate in the years ahead, reflecting substantially higher T&D spend.
    • The disclosed capital expenditure plans of the publicly traded U.S. utilities and power companies show T&D capex rising by more than 25% over 2016-2018, from $45 billion to $57 billion annually, while planned generation capex falls by 14% from $38 billion to $33 billion.
  • The implications of this shift over the medium term are best captured by comparing U.S. utility and power companies’ historical capex over the years 2012-2016 with their disclosed capex plans for 2017-2021 (see the right hand chart of Exhibit 8).
    • U.S. utility and power companies plan to increase aggregate T&D capex by over 40% over the next five years, from $196 billion over 2012-2016 to $276 billion over 2017-2021. By contrast, planned generation capex falls by 11% to $161 billion over 2017-2021, from $180 billion over 2012-2016.
    • As a result, the breakdown of aggregate utility and power capex will shift from a relatively even split between generation and T&D over 2012-2016 to a marked predominance of T&D capex over 2017-2021, when T&D capex is expected to comprise 63% of planned capital expenditures on electric utility plant (see Exhibit 9).

Exhibit 8: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Aggregate Capital Expenditure on Electric Utility Plant, by Segment, 2011-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

Exhibit 9: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Capital Expenditures on Electric Utility Plant, Percentage Breakdown by Segment, 2012-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

 

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

  • The decline in generation spend would be even more dramatic were it not for the continued rapid growth of renewable generation.
    • As illustrated in Exhibit 10, capital expenditures on conventional generation assets, which totaled $153 billion over the five years 2012-2016, are expected to fall by 30% to only $107 billion over 2017-2021.
    • By contrast, capex on renewables is expected to double from $27 to $53 billion, as utilities seek to comply with increasingly aggressive state renewable mandates and as the declining costs of renewables make them more competitive with alternative sources.
    • This shift will increase the share of renewable generation in the total generation capex from only 15% over 2012-2016 to 33% over 2017-2021 (see Exhibit 11).
    • The transition from conventional to renewable capex reflects the stagnation of U.S. power demand since 2009, which has limited the need for new generation capacity, combined with increasingly ambitious state renewable energy mandates.

Exhibit 10: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Aggregate Capital Expenditure on Conventional and Renewable Generation Plant, 2011-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

 

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

Exhibit 11: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Aggregate Capital Expenditure on Conventional and Renewable Generation Plant, 2011-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

 

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

  • U.S. utilities are planning a marked increase in distribution capex over 2017-2021 (Exhibit 12). While transmission capex will also rise, its pace of growth will slow, allowing distribution to capture a dominant share of T&D capex over the next five years (Exhibit 13).
    • Over the five years 2012-2016, U.S. utilities’ transmission capex has risen by 11% p.a., while distribution capex has grown at half that rate. Looking forward, however, this pattern is expected to change.
    • By 2018, U.S. utilities plan to increase distribution capex by 36%, to $34 billion from $25 billion in 2016. Transmission capex will grow by just 14%, from $20 to $23 billion annually.
    • Compared over the five-year periods 2012-2016 and 2017-2021, utilities plan to increase distribution capex by over half, from $109 to $169 billion, and transmission capex by less than a quarter, from $87 to $107 billion (see the right-hand chart of Exhibit 12).

Exhibit 12: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Capital Expenditures on Transmission and Distribution Plant, 2011-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

 

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Source: Capital IQ, S&P Global, FERC Form 1 filings, SSR analysis

Exhibit 13: Publicly Traded U.S. Utility and Power Companies’ Capex on Transmission and Distribution Plant, Percentage Breakdown by Segment, 2012-2016 vs. 2017E-2021E

 

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Source: FERC Form 1 filings, S&P Global, SSR analysis

  • We note that U.S. power companies’ more robust capital spending on transmission and distribution has caused U.S. aggregate power sector capex to rise significantly over the last five years, even as the aggregate capital expenditures of non-U.S. power companies has declined.
  • As can be seen in Exhibit 14, aggregate capex among our sample of non-U.S. power companies fell by ~11% over 2012-2016 even as U.S. power sector capex increased by ~13%.

Exhibit 14: Global Utility Capex, U.S. vs. Rest of World, 2012-2016

$ Billions 2012 = 100

 

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Source: S&P Global, company reports, SSR analysis

  • The transition from generation to T&D capex evident in U.S. utilities’ capex plans is consistent with the stagnation in power demand documented in our note of February 14, 2018, Power Demand Growth: What Does International Power Demand Growth Tells Us About the Outlook for the U.S. Power Sector?
  • Exhibit 15 presents the growth in U.S. generation on a rolling five-year basis to smooth the impact of weather. As can be seen there, the five-year rate of growth in U.S. power output has hovered near zero since 2009, limiting the need for capacity additions.
  • Exhibit 16 compares the ratio of generation growth to GDP growth in the United States. Calculated on a rolling ten-year basis, this ratio has been in decline for 20 years. The ten-year growth rates realized through 2015 and 2016 suggest that for every 1.0% increase in GDP, generation has grown by only 0.15% to 0.20% — significantly curtailing the potential for future economic growth to drive higher power demand.

Exhibit 15: Five-Year CAGR in US Power Generation (Lower 48 States), 1995-2016

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Exhibit 16: Ratio of 10 Year CAGR in Generation to 10 Year CAGR in GDP

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Source: OECD, U.S. Energy Information Administration

  • Technological developments and changing regulatory priorities are driving the increase in distribution spend, both in absolute and relative terms.
    • Many utilities across the country are upgrading their distribution systems through the deployment of smart grid technologies, such as customer meters capable of measuring electricity consumption by the minute and wirelessly communicating this data to the utility; devices that allow major pieces of equipment, such as transformers and substations, to be continuously monitored for signs of impending failure, allowing maintenance to be conducted on an as-needed basis as opposed to on a calendar schedule; and sensors, relays and switches that allow distribution circuits to which the supply of power has been interrupted to be supplied from alternative sources.
    • The rising cost to customers of distribution system outages, as computers and portable electronic devices have become increasingly important, has caused regulators to impose higher reliability standards. Utilities have accelerated maintenance and replacement capex to reflect the mean-time-to-failure of critical components of the distribution grid. Utilities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are also spending significant amounts of capital on the storm hardening of their distribution grids, including the deployment of concrete power poles and the undergrounding of distribution lines.
    • Lastly, we expect distribution upgrades to continue in the years ahead as the grid integrates an increased amount of distributed generation, distributed storage and electric vehicles, whose charging will require increased transformer capacity, upgraded distribution circuits, and two-way communication capability to stagger charging loads.
  • We do not expect a marked recovery in generation capex until the mid 2020s, when the expected retirement of coal and gas-fired steam turbine generators built circa 1970 will begin to create a growing need for replacement capacity. The need to replace aging steam turbine generators will continue through the late 2030s, and will be augmented by the likely retirement commencing in the late 2020s of the ~250 GW of gas fired generation capacity added over the years 1998-2005 (see Exhibit 17).

While US nuclear retirements will also contribute to this cycle, the timing of that is less certain as it is possible for nuclear plants, especially those owned by regulated electric utilities, to apply for a second 20 year license extension, as NextEra just did at its Turkey Point nuclear plant. However, if the remaining nuclear power plants were to begin retiring in the mid-2020s and do so over a period of 15-20 years, the retirements would add an average of ~6-10 GW per year to required new capacity.

Exhibit 17: Historical and Forecast Retirements of U.S. Generation Capacity (1)

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1. Assumes steam turbine generators are retired after 60 years of operation, gas turbines and combined cycle gas turbines after 35 years.

Source: S&P Global, SSR analysis and estimates

Investment Conclusion

  • The global decline in power sector investment in generation, and the greater stability of T&D capex, will have a differentiated impact on suppliers to the power industry.
  • Best positioned is ABB, which does not manufacture generation equipment, and over half of whose revenues are derived from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment.
  • While Siemens is a major supplier of fossil fuel generation equipment to the power industry, a similar share of Siemens revenues (15%) derives from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment to utilities and a further 8% of revenues represent sales to the rapidly growing renewable generation segment.The next impact of the trends discussed here, therefore, may be moderately positive for Siemens.
  • Like ABB, Schneider does not manufacture power generation equipment. As the bulk of Schneider’s sales of electrical equipment are to the building, industrial and IT segments, Schneider is also less levered to utilities’ purchases of transmission and distribution spend. However, Schneider’s sales of electrical equipment to utility customers may benefit from the trend towards increased distribution spend evident in the United States and the rest of its electrical equipment sales could benefit from the trend towards digitalization.
  • Most adversely affected is likely to be GE, 22% of whose revenues derive from the sale of fossil generation equipment, as compare with an estimated 6% from the sale of transmission and distribution equipment and 7% from sales to the renewable energy segment.
  • Among U.S regulated utilities, the most favorable growth prospects over the next five years exist among the transmission and distribution utilities, and particularly those positioned to maximize capital expenditures and rate base growth in the distribution segment.
  • We expect rate base growth in the transmission and distribution segments of ~10% and 9% p.a., respectively, over 2016-2021, and growth in generation rate base of less than 5% p.a. (Exhibit 18).
  • Growth in distribution rate base, which averaged 4.1% p.a. over the last five years (2011-2016), is expected to accelerate to 9.1% p.a. over 2016-2021. By contrast, we expect growth in generation rate base to fall from 5.7% p.a. to 4.5% p.a. Growth in transmission rate base is expected to decelerate from 12.0% p.a. over the last five years to 10.0% p.a. over 2016-2021.

Exhibit 18: Growth in Aggregate Electric Rate Base

of the U.S. Investor Owned Utilities, by Segment

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Source: SNL, FERC Form 1, SSR analysis and estimates

  • In Exhibit 19, we rank the publicly traded electric utilities in the U.S. by the composition of their planned capital expenditures over 2016-2021.
    • Of the publicly traded utilities whose regulated subsidiaries have the highest percentage of rate base growth in the transmission and distribution segments, we rank five among our most preferred utility stocks: Edison International (EIX), Exelon (EXC), PG&E (PCG), FirstEnergy (FE) and American Electric Power (AEP). (See Exhibit 19).
    • Conversely, among those utilities with the lowest contributions from transmission and distribution rate base are two that rank among our least preferred utility stocks: Portland General (POR) and Southern (SO).

Exhibit 19: Breakdown of 2016-2021 Growth in Electric Rate Base by Class of Asset

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Source: SNL, FERC Form 1, SSR analysis and estimates

©2018, SSR LLC, 225 High Ridge Road, Stamford, CT 06905. All rights reserved. The information contained in this report has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the fairness, accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information and opinions contained herein.  The views and other information provided are subject to change without notice.  This report is issued without regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient and is not construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any securities or related financial instruments. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future results.

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