Renewables capex set to reach $14.6B in 2020 as utilities hone investment plans | Utilities Message Board Posts

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Msg  1584 of 1615  at  11/23/2020 7:15:12 AM  by


Renewables capex set to reach $14.6B in 2020 as utilities hone investment plans

 from SNL Power Daily with Market Report

Renewables capex set to reach $14.6B in 2020 as utilities hone investment plans

Byline: Jason Lehmann

Based on conclusions from our most recent review of company spending plans made available through investor presentations including those from the Virtual EEI Financial Conference held Nov. 9-Nov. 11 as well as SEC filings and other sources, renewable energy capital expenditures are projected to reach $14.60 billion in 2020 among our group consisting primarily of electric and multi-utilities, as well as one gas utility. Renewables capex is projected to decrease 16% in 2021 to $12.23 billion and hold steady in 2022 at $12.35 billion before declining in the outer years of our forecast. Although 2023 and 2024 forecasts show a decline in renewables capex, actual spending is likely to rise as companies' plans for future projects solidify and new opportunities arise.

Such opportunities may accelerate via U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's sweeping climate and decarbonization plan that calls for $2 trillion of investment in clean energy initiatives that would displace fossil fuels and potentially spur a more rapid deployment of solar and wind.

Amid a broader energy utility sector transition from emissions-intensive operations, declining technology and installation costs, state renewable portfolio standards and customer demand for cleaner sources of electricity continue to be among the driving forces behind the addition of regulated and contracted wind and solar energy to utilities generating portfolios. Federal production and investment tax credits also remain an important component of renewable energy development: citing supply chain disruptions and subsequent delays to wind and solar projects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service in May extended safe harbor deadlines for the production tax credit and the investment tax credit from four years to five years for projects that began construction in 2016 or 2017.

In addition to the aforementioned factors, environmental, social and governance considerations appear to be a significant factor in utilities investment plans and operational outlooks, with numerous companies outlining ambitious emissions reduction goals in conjunction with substantial planned capital investments in low- and zero-carbon emission generating projects. For additional detail on utilities' ESG efforts, see the March 3, Sept. 3, Sept. 21 and Sept. 24 Financial Focus reports Large and midcap US electric utilities, Mid- and smallcap US electric utilities, US energy multi-utilities, part 1 and US energy multi-utilities, part 2.

To varying degrees, renewable energy investments support utilities' earnings growth objectives typically 4% to 7% annually with the addition of renewable assets to a utility's generation mix representing an attractive, incremental earnings stream and, with no fuel costs, a hedge against potential commodity price volatility. Utilities with competitive generation segments continue to develop and acquire projects under long-term power purchase agreements, or PPAs, to hedge against volatile commodities markets while delivering predictable earnings growth.


A recent Financial Focus study found that at the end of the third quarter, there were more than 31 GW of U.S. onshore wind projects with distinct, disclosed utility interconnections slated for completion by the end of 2024, led by private developer Invenergy LLC's 4.3 GW of owned capacity due in service by 2022, and NextEra Energy Inc., with 3 GW of capacity slated to be in service by 2023. U.S. wind projects that are planned for completion from 2020 through 2024, including those with and without interconnect information, totaled more than 69,600 MW, or roughly 70 GW.

Through June 30, operating wind power capacity in the U.S. stood at 109.6 GW following one of the strongest second quarters on record in terms of capacity installations with 2,369 MW added, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence study. Utility-owned projects were among the largest installations brought online in the quarter, including NextEra's 226-MW Roundhouse Wind Farm in Laramie County, Wyo.; Southern Co. 200-MW Reading Wind Project (Lyon County) in Lyon County, Kan.; and Xcel Energy Inc. 200-MW Blazing Star I Wind Farm in Lincoln County, Minn.


At the end of the third quarter there were nearly 39 GW of U.S. solar projects in various phases of development including announced, early development, advanced development, or under-construction with disclosed utility interconnections. As with wind developments, NextEra topped the list in terms of owned capacity with disclosed utility interconnections at just over 3 GW slated for completion by the end of 2023. At the end of the second quarter, U.S. installed solar capacity stood at approximately 42.3 GW following the addition of 1,655 MW between April and June.

Company perspectives

NextEra Energy

S&P Global Market Intelligence data indicates that at the end of the second quarter NextEra Energy owned approximately 7,100 MW of planned wind capacity and 7,700 MW of planned solar capacity in various stages of development slated to be completed between 2020 and 2024. As one of the world s largest renewable energy developers, NextEra by a significant margin has the largest estimated capex dedicated to renewables at more than $18 billion between 2020 and 2022. The company believes that wind, followed by solar, will be the cheapest sources of electric generation following the expiration of renewable energy tax credits.

NextEra's renewable energy operations are primarily conducted through its regulated utility, Florida Power & Light Co., and its competitive energy arm, NextEra Energy Resources LLC, or NEER. NEER, one of the world's largest developers of renewable energy and battery storage projects, recently added 1,450 MW of new projects to its development pipeline, which stood at approximately 15,000 MW at June 30, 2020. Owing in part to what management describes as '"the ongoing strength of the renewables development environment,'" NextEra anticipates 6% to 8% EPS annual EPS growth through 2023 from a 2021 base, and at least 10% annual dividend growth through 2022. S&P Capital IQ consensus EPS estimates forecast approximately 9.6% EPS growth in 2020 from 2019.


As one of the largest wind and solar operators in the U.S., Avangrid Inc. describes itself as one the cleanest U.S. utilities, with a pledge to transition to carbon-neutral operations by 2035 through the expansion of its renewable energy operations as well as infrastructure enabling the transmission of renewable energy. Renewable capital expenditures excluding those planned by Avangrid acquisition target PNM Resources Inc. are expected total $2.7 billion between 2020 and 2023, primarily on onshore wind and solar projects, before further increasing toward the middle of the decade as Avangrid ramps up expenditures related to offshore wind developments expected to enter service in 2024 and 2025, including the 800-MW Vineyard Offshore Wind Project near Massachusetts and the 800-MW Park City Wind Offshore near Connecticut, both joint ventures between Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K/S. With U.S. states mandating approximately 30 GW of new offshore wind capacity by 2035, Avangrid indicates it is well-positioned to compete for additional offshore wind, which the company describes as a growing strategic business.

American Electric Power

American Electric Power Co. Inc.'s 2020-2022 renewables capex forecast stands at approximately $2.39 billion, considerably higher than our July 2020 forecast owing to the addition of expenditures related to the planned acquisition of the North Central wind projects in Oklahoma that will serve AEP utilities Southwestern Electric Power Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, following regulatory approvals in Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma earlier this year.

During its third-quarter earnings call, AEP management indicated the company intends to further invest in clean energy resources as it seeks to lower its fossil fuel emissions intensity in the coming decades, including a 70% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030, extending to 80% by 2050.

Renewable energy expenditures including $2.8 billion for regulated renewables and $2.1 billion for contracted renewable assets are expected to comprise 14% of AEP s capital forecast through mid-decade as the company looks to drive 5% to 7% EPS growth and approximately 7.4% rate base growth.

Alliant Energy

Alliant Energy Corp. renewable capex is projected at $1.50 billion between 2020 and 2022, comprising nearly 35% of the company s total capex during this period. Through its Iowa and Wisconsin utilities, Alliant aims to derive 53% of its capacity from renewable resources including owned generating projects and utility power purchase agreements by 2030, versus 34% in 2020, while eliminating coal-fired generation from its fleet by 2040 as it strives to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Having completed earlier this year the addition of 1,000 MW of new wind resources in Iowa, Alliant intends to add up to 400 MW of solar by 2023 in the state as well as community solar and energy storage resources by 2026. In Wisconsin, Alliant is advancing plans to install 1,000 MW of solar generation in the state. As part of those development efforts, Alliant in May announced a transaction to invest approximately $900 million to acquire and construct a 675-MW portfolio of six solar projects in Wisconsin.

Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy renewables capex is forecast to reach $1.76 billion in 2020 before tapering off in subsequent years as the company completes the buildout of its Midwest and Southwest regulated wind portfolio. The initiative, dubbed by Xcel Energy as '"steel for fuel,'" is aimed at replacing coal with lower-cost wind power across the company's eight-state utility service territories. As of early November, Xcel had placed approximately 2.9 GW of wind generation into service, with approximately 1.6 GW of projects remaining to be completed. Xcel intends to achieve an 80% reduction of its carbon emissions by 2030, primarily through renewable energy additions, coal plant retirements and the conversion of its deactivated coal facilities to burn natural gas.

Absent from Xcel Energy's capital forecast is the potential addition of $1.4 billion in incremental wind and solar projects in response to a request from the state of Minnesota for proposals to help address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of that request, Xcel in September proposed to repower four wind farms in Minnesota totaling 650 MW at a cost of about $750 million and has indicated it expects a decision from state regulators by the end of the year.

This report is designed to identify capital expenditure trends in the U.S. utility sector using a range of sources of information. While S&P Global Market Intelligence takes all due care to ensure the data represented is accurate and represents our best interpretation of industry trends, the varying nature of the available sources of information in terms of depth, quality, availability and timeliness means this report should only be used as outlined. Though the underlying data is included in this report, those looking for company-specific capital expenditure information should use data filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


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