NSTAR to spend bulk of 2012 transmission CapEx on Lower SEMA project

NSTAR (NYSE:NST) expects to spend $190m on transmission capital expenditures in 2012, the bulk of which will be for one transmission project, COO Jim Judge said during the company’s 4Q11 earnings call Jan. 27. 

About $110m of the 2012 spend will be for the Lower Southeastern Massachusetts (SEMA) project. Approved by the Cape Cod Commission on Jan. 19, the project entails constructing 18 miles of new 345-kV line; separating an existing double-circuit 345-kV transmission line that crosses the Cape Cod Canal onto separate sets of structures; increasing voltage on about 13 miles of an existing transmission line from 115-kV to 345-kV; constructing a new 345/115-kV substation in West Barnstable, and other ancillary station improvements.

The project is now waiting on its last approval, which is being drafted by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board. A decision is expected within the next few weeks, a spokesperson with NSTAR told TransmissionHub Jan. 27. 

The new transmission line would run from the Carver substation southeast along an existing NSTAR right of way, cross the Cape Cod Canal and tie into an existing line (Line #120) in the vicinity of the Bourne switching station, according to a project overview.

The line is expected to enter service in late 2012 or early 2013, the spokesperson said. 

NSTAR typically spends about $100m per year on transmission projects. In addition to raising transmission CapEx in 2012, the Lower SEMA project increased transmission spending in 2011 to $162m. 

The company has not budgeted for the Northern Pass transmission project in its 2012 CapEx, an official said during the earnings call. 

Transmission revenue helped to boost NSTAR’s 4Q11 earnings. The company reported earnings of $55.2m, or 53 cents per share, for the quarter, up from $51.3m, or 49 cents per share, in 4Q10. 

NSTAR attributed the increase in part to higher transmission revenue resulting from projects being completed during the quarter. 

The company’s transmission rate base in 2011 was about $900m, according to an official on the call. 

NSTAR, headquartered in Boston, Mass., is in a pending merger with Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU), with which it has proposed the $1.1bn Northern Pass project. 

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.