Energy Capital Partners expands utility infrastructure business in West

PLH Group, a portfolio of companies owned by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, on July 1 announced an acquisition that will expand its presence in the transmission construction sector while also expanding its capabilities and market position in the western United States.

PLH acquired Phoenix, Ariz.-based Edison Power Constructors, a construction firm begun in 2011, to deliver infrastructure construction services in the areas of electric transmission, distribution, and substations. Edison will be a separate operating unit of PLH.

While a relatively new company, Edison is run by industry veteran Mark Stefanik, who has a background in operations management, business development and labor relations. Before forming Edison, he was vice president of transmission and substations with Kiewit Power Constructors. He has also held various positions with PAR Electrical Contractors and InfraSource Transmission Services.

“We started out as a small company here in Arizona to take advantage of the burgeoning transmission construction market,” Stefanik told TransmissionHub July 9. “I’d been talking to a number of entities about taking the company to the next level and becoming the next powerhouse in the industry.”

Over the course of his conversations with PLH, Stefanik said he became convinced that their program, business model, and financial backing would provide the best opportunity for his company. PLH became convinced that the arrangement would be mutually beneficial.

“This strategic addition to PLH significantly expands our electric transmission service offerings and complements our existing transmission and distribution construction business in North America,” Mark Crowson, PLH president and CEO, said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “Edison builds on our existing capabilities to perform electric transmission and distribution construction services across North America to serve the needs of our customers.”

For his part, Stefanik believes his smaller company will have some advantages over the larger players in the industry.

“There are a lot of things these bigger companies have lost focus on, and that is building a quality product on time and on schedule, and making everybody happy,” he said, noting “It’s a joint effort between the utilities, the line builders, and the community.”

Since starting his career in 1978 as an apprentice electrician, Stefanik has become quite familiar with community involvement.

“Community outreach is always a part of what we do,” he said, noting that he recently handled community outreach in New Jersey related to the 500-kV Susquehanna-to-Roseland transmission project. “We want to try and have everybody involved in the process.”

While the PLH Group’s portfolio of companies has a strong focus on oil and gas infrastructure construction, it also includes companies with significant experience in electric transmission and distribution construction, though much of its work in that sector has been in Texas and the Midwest.

In 2011, the group’s company Power Line Services was selected by Sharyland Utilities to build approximately 71 miles of 345-kV competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) lines in Texas. Power Line Services oversaw, managed and performed all construction activities related to the 46-mile Nazareth to Silverton line and the 25-mile Nazareth to Hereford segment. Both lines are scheduled to enter service this summer, according to TransmissionHub data.

Power Line Services is also currently involved in the construction of Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s Hitchland to Woodward 345-kV transmission line, the construction of three American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) substations in Texas, and the replacement of distribution-level poles for companies including the Bryant, Texas utility and Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL).

Formed in 2009 as Power Line Holdings, the group officially changed its name to PLH Group in January. At that time, PLH Group companies included Sun Electric, TESSCO, AIR 2, Auger Services, Snelson Companies, IPS Engineering, Southeast Directional Drilling, M&M Pipeline Services, and Energy Services South.

In April, PLH made its first Canadian acquisition, Pipeworx Ltd., a leading pipeline contractor founded in 2004. With four offices and headquarters in the Edmonton, Alberta area, Pipeworx delivers infrastructure services to the oil and gas industry across the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.

The acquisition of Edison will immediately give PLH a stronger presence in the Southwest, and Stefanik anticipates aggressive growth elsewhere in the near term.

“We’re looking at taking advantage of opportunities,” he said. “Not only throughout the Arizona regional area but the western United States, central United States, eventually, and into Canada.”