TransAlta says tweaked greenhouse rules extend life of coal units

TransAlta (TSX: TA) said Oct. 26 that federal greenhouse gas regulation will provide its Alberta coal fleet with an average extended lifespan of three-and-half years per unit, equaling a 43-year cumulative extension for the fleet.

TransAlta President and CEO Dawn Farrell made the remark during the company’s quarterly earnings call. She also discussed the recently-announced Solomon generation acquisition in Australia and a delay in commissioning a new wind project in Canada.

The revised CO2 rules will benefit a dozen coal-fired facilities located at the K3, G3, Sheerness, Keephills and Sundance locations, according to a slide included in the TransAlta earnings presentation.

“Cumulatively, the revised regulations add 43 years and approximately 89 TWh of anticipated additional production to TransAlta,” TransAlta said in its earnings presentation.

TransAlta has completed the majority of its 2012 major maintenance program for its coal fleet. Major maintenance outages at Keephills 1 and 2, Centralia (in Washington state), Sheerness and Sundance 3 have been completed. The remaining coal major maintenance outage is on track, the company said.

On the renewable front, Farrell said the 68-MW New Richmond wind project in Quebec is now targeted for completion in March 2013. The company had hoped to get it finished in December 2012, but progress was slowed by the availability of cranes.

TransAlta said in 2011 that New Richmond is contracted under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hydro-Québec Distribution.

During the call, Farrell also extensively discussed the same-day announcement TransAlta and Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy Holdings that they will develop new gas-fired power plants in Canada.

Earlier this fall, TransAlta had announced the purchase of the 125-MW Solomon power project to supply electricity to Fortescue Mining Group (FMG) in Australia. The deal includes a long-term power contract.

During the quarter, TransAlta experienced above-average hydroelectric levels and strong availability (of almost 91%) across its generating fleet. These benefits were offset, however, by lower energy trading results, the company said.

In addition to expanding its generation, energy marketing and renewable footprint in Canada, TransAlta also seeks to be a leading “behind the fence” generator in Western Australia and a growing player in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

TransAlta reported third quarter 2012 comparable earnings of C$41m (C$0.18 per share) versus comparable earnings of C$61m (C$0.27 per share) for the same period in 2011.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.