As Oregon recovers from the troublesome trifecta of the coronavirus pandemic, a powerful winter storm in February that resulted in widespread multiday power outages and catastrophic wildfires in the fall of 2020, Portland General Electric Co. is seeing demand rebound.
In the first quarter of 2021, residential electricity consumption rose 3% compared with a year ago, while industrial demand jumped 8%, more than offsetting a 5% decline in power use among commercial businesses, company President and CEO Maria Pope said on an April 30 earnings call.
Overall, the state's largest investor-owned utility registered a 1% uptick in the number of customers it serves and a 2.3% boost in demand "after accounting for the harsh winter conditions," Pope said. "Expansion within our region of several digital companies, and the global semiconductor shortage, are expected to continue and solidify our positive outlook. Overall, Oregon's economy is recovering."
With that recovery, the utility is planning to add more renewable energy to its power mix to meet the demands of its customer base, including large technology companies seeking to decarbonize. "They're increasingly wanting 100% green energy," Pope said.
Specifically, Portland General Electric, or PGE, is preparing to seek more renewable energy and "non-emitting dispatchable resources" to plug a roughly 500-MW capacity gap in 2025, according to an April 28 application to the Oregon Public Utility Commission. The size of PGE's search, which is expected to extend into 2022 for resources online by the end of 2024, could end up smaller than 500 MW if the utility contracts for "an existing capacity resource" in the meantime, CFO Jim Ajello said on the call.
Renewable energy projects that incorporate battery storage could play a larger role for PGE, such as the colocated Wheatridge Solar & Battery Storage Facility and Wheatridge Wind Energy Facility in Morrow County, Ore., contracted with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Inc.
"I believe that projects like that are a great example of how we can have a reliable clean energy future," Pope said in a recent interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The company posted adjusted net earnings of $1.07 per share for the first quarter of 2021, beating S&P Capital IQ's consensus estimate of 93 cents per share and up from 91 cents per share a year ago.