PPL to bring online Cane Run gas plant later this quarter

PPL (NYSE:PPL) Chairman, President and CEO William Spence said May 7 that the company’s regulated utilities in Kentucky expect to bring online the new 640-MW Cane Run combined-cycle gas plant later this quarter.

That was one of the highlights of PPL’s first quarter earnings conference call, which included discussion of a major new transmission project coming online to completion of PPL’s competitive generation spinoff.

PPL’s Kentucky regulated segment primarily consists of the regulated electricity and natural gas operations of Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities (KU). Cane Run 7 will be Kentucky’s first natural gas combined-cycle plant. The gas plant has been undergoing testing for the past couple of months.

The Kentucky utilities are also retiring a number of coal units at the Cane Run complex. The utilities announced the retirement of the Cane Run 6 coal unit on March 30.

Retirement of Units 4 and 5 are expected as soon as the new unit is commercially available. The retirements come as the result of stricter environmental mandates on coal-fired generation by the Environmental Protection Agency, PPL has said.

Kentucky operations still have much work to do to comply with mercury and air toxic standards (MATS) rule, PPL officials said. A settlement of various issues with parties before the Kentucky Public Service Commission has been reached, officials said.

In related fossil generation news, PPL officials said that the Green River power plant in Kentucky is scheduled to be retired in April 2016.

The environmental cost recovery settlement still requires final approval of the Kentucky PSC. PPL expects new rates to take effect in Kentucky July 1, PPL official said during the call.

On the infrastructure front, PPL expects to energize the Susquehanna-Roseland project in Pennsylvania within days, officials said.

Company is still in a quiet period on Talen Energy spinoff. Key PPL non-utility generating assets, such as the Susquehanna nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, will become part of Talen.

Talen Energy transaction will close June 1. The spinoff will leave PPL as more of a “pure play” regulated power company, Spence said.

All regulatory approvals have been secured for the transaction. Early trading begins May 18th under symbol “TLN WI”. Regular trading begins June 2 under symbol “TLN.”

On other issues, PPL said the winter of 2015 was “slightly colder” than 2014 although it lacked the extreme volatility of the 2014 polar vortex.

PPL announced first-quarter 2015 reported earnings of $647m, or 96 cents per share, an increase from $316m, or 49 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

Adjusting for special items, including Supply segment earnings, first-quarter 2015 regulated utility earnings from ongoing operations were $519m, or 77 cents per share. This compares to regulated utility earnings from ongoing operations (adjusted) of $426 million, or 66 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

“Strong first-quarter earnings at our U.K. regulated segment drove a 17% increase in per-share regulated utility earnings from ongoing operations, while our regulated businesses in both Pennsylvania and Kentucky continued to perform well and benefited from ongoing infrastructure investments,” Spence said.

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.