US Geothermal's (HTM) CEO Dennis Gilles on Q4 2015 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: US Geothermal (HTM)

US Geothermal Inc (NYSEMKT:HTM)

Q4 2015 Earnings Conference Call

March 11, 2016 1:00 p.m. ET

Executives

Dennis Gilles - CEO

Doug Glaspey - President and COO

Kerry Hawkley - Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Jim McIlree - Chardan Capital

Bryan Lee - Private Management Group

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the U.S. Geothermal 2015 Year End Results Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A question and answer session will follow the formal presentation. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host Mr. Dennis Gilles, CEO of U.S. Geothermal. Thank you, Mr. Gilles, you may begin.

Dennis Gilles

Thank you, operator. Good day everyone and welcome to our year-end results conference call. I'm joined today by our President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Glaspey and by our Chief Financial Officer, Kerry Hawkley.

Our earnings release was issued yesterday and can be found on our website at www.usgeothermal.com. We have also posted slides for the first time that accompany today's remarks, which you can access on our website home page and on the home page, they will be via a link titled earnings call which is in the upper right hand corner of the home page, and it's just above the link to our updated corporate presentation.

On January 18, we issued an update of our performance. And today we're going to provide a financial detail and comment on our much improved 2016 outlook.

I'd like to bring -- call your attention to Slide 3. U.S. Geothermal’s financial performance in 2015 exceeded our expectations given the warmer weather throughout the year. We produced our 13th straight quarter of positive EBITDA and cash flow. And our net income as adjusted attributable to U.S. Geothermal increased by 79% over the prior year 2014.

Our three operating plants all did well and generated annual availabilities ranging from 95% to 99% of power output after planned maintenance outages. However I'm particularly excited by the steps we took to advance some 68 megawatts of our 96 megawatts in our pipeline. The pipeline we have built provides us with a very strong platform for growth. Doug will provide more detail on operations and development shortly but first, I'd like to turn the call over to our CFO Kerry Hawkley for an update on our financials. Kerry?

Kerry Hawkley

Thank you, Dennis and good morning to our listeners on this call. If you will turn to Slide 4. But before beginning, we'd like to remind you that the information provided during this call may contain forward-looking statements relating to current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about future events that are forward looking as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements generally relate to the company's plans, objectives and expectations for future operations and are based on management's current estimates and projections of future results or trends. Actual future results may differ materially from those projected as a result of certain risks and uncertainties.

During the call we will present non-GAAP financial measures such as EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted net income. Reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP measures and management's reason for presenting such information is set forth in the press release that was issued last night. Because these measures are not calculated in accordance with U.S. GAAP, it should not be considered in isolation from our financial statements prepared in accordance to GAAP.

I will now discuss the financial statements of US Geothermal for the year ended December 31, 2015. You'll note that the company is now filing our financial statements and MD&A in a condensed format.

On Slide 5, we have the balance sheet information as of 12/31/2015. On a consolidated basis, our total assets are $228.2 million. Total liabilities are $99.8 million. Non-controlling interests have been reduced to $27.6 million and our net stockholders’ equity has increased to $100.8 million. The decrease in not controlling interest and the corresponding increase in net stockholders’ equity are due primarily to the purchase of additional ownership in Raft River from Goldman Sachs.

The company paid $5.1 million to purchase an additional 45% ownership interest which was valued on the books at $18.4 million. The increment $13.3 million was recorded to additional paid in capital which is part of net stockholders’ equity, a nice add for our shareholders.

On Slide 6, we show the statement of operations. We're very pleased with our results for the past year. Revenues for the year were $31.2 million, up $231,000 from 2014. Plant operating expenses were $15.9 million, down $71,000 over 2014. Employee compensation costs were down $316,000 from 2014 levels due primarily to costs allocable to our development projects. Exploration costs for 2015 were down $426,000 due primarily to ceasing drilling at Gerlach which was expensed [ph] in 2014.

Net income before tax of $6.3 million in 2015 is up 40% over the $4.6 million recorded last year. Net income attributable to U.S. Geothermal was $1.8 million in 2015 compared to $11.6 million in 2014. However if we had not recorded the deferred tax asset in December 2014, net income attributable to US Geothermal as adjusted would have been $3.2 million in 2015 compared to $1.8 million in 2014, a 79% improvement. Please remember that the $10.3 million tax adjustment recorded in December 2014 was a one-time event to record the deferred tax asset.

If you go to Slide 7, we have our statement of cash flow. We began the year with cash and cash equivalents of $13 million. Cash generated by operations was $13.8 million. Note payments reduced our total debt by $4.4 million. We made payments through our non-controlling interest at Neal Hot Springs of $3.5 million and we purchased the additional ownership interest at Raft River Energy from Goldman Sachs, $3.5 million of that was in cash.

Capitalized development costs at West WGP Geysers, San Emidio, El Ceibillo and Crescent Valley totaled $6.6 million. So we ended the year with cash and cash equivalents of $8.7 million.

Our statement of changes in stockholder equity is shown on Page 8, on Slide 8. We added net income attributable to US Geothermal of $1.8 million during the year. Our accumulated deficit net of tax is now $17.4 million.

Shares of common stock issued upon exercise of stock options were 155,000, another 428,000 shares were issued with a one year restriction. Cash of $3.5 million was distributed to our non-controlling interest and $5.1 million of a combination of cash and a convertible note was paid to Goldman Sachs to purchase the additional interest at Raft River. Common stock issued and outstanding at 12/31/2015 totaled 107.6 million shares.

We remain sensitive to the complexity of our disclosure caused by our partnership agreements. The company continues to evaluate opportunities to simplify this process. Please see the disclosure on, I believe, it’s Page 83 in the MD&A section, regarding the net income attributable to the non-controlling interests and the net income attributable to U.S. Geothermal and its shareholders.

For the year 2015 the total net income from operations attributable to US Geothermal and shareholders was $4.8 million, which came from Neal Hot Springs at $3.7 million, San Emidio, at $928,000 and Raft River at $175,000. From that, exploration activities and corporate overhead costs $3.0 million. All of these figures are net of tax.

I’d like to thank you for your continued interest in US Geothermal. Now to review the operation and development projects, here is Doug Glaspey.

Doug Glaspey

Thank you, Kerry. Good day everybody. Thank you for joining us. If you'd refer to Slide 9. I'll begin by summarizing our overall operating performance.

The annual average availabilities at each of our plants, excluding planned maintenance, continued to be very high. Neal Hot Springs was 97.9%, San Emidio at 98.6% and Raft River operated at 95.4%. With these high availabilities, I'll remind you that one of the strengths of geothermal power is that we are online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For comparison, wind supplies power an average of eight hours a day, for 33% availability and solar provides power for an average of six hours a day or 25% availability.

We completed important annual maintenance programs at each of our plants this year, including a major turbine overhaul at Raft River, which is our first overhaul after seven years of operation. We generated a fleet wide total of 332,009 megawatt hours in 2015 compared to 339,086 megawatt hours in the prior year. Warmer temperatures were experienced across the West in 2015 which averaged approximately four degrees above our normal annual average. Some months had average [ph] temperatures as high as 12 degrees above average. These higher temperatures had a dampening effect on generation at all of our facilities.

Moving on to Slide 10. At Neal Hot Springs, our generation for the fourth quarter was 52,641 megawatt hours with average hourly generation of 24.1 net megawatt per hour of operation. We operated at 98.7% availability for the fourth quarter and 97.9% for the year as I mentioned earlier.

Generation from Neal for 2015 was 176,871 megawatt hours compared to 183,394 megawatt hours in 2014. Most of this reduction in generation was due to that warmer normal weather during the year which affects Neal the most because it is an air cooled plant.

We also signed a settlement agreement with our equipment supplier Turbine Air Systems on the project. And last but not least, I'd like to note that the geothermal reservoir at Neal continues to outperform with essentially zero temperature decline since we started the plant.

On Slide 11, San Emidio. At San Emidio, our generation was 20,369 megawatt hours for the fourth quarter with average hourly generation of 9.4 net megawatts per hour of operation. Plant operated at 98.2% availability for the fourth quarter and 98.6% for the year. We generated 79,539 megawatt hours in 2015 compared to 76,894 megawatt hours in 2014.

Continuing on Slide 12, at Raft River our generation was 21,755 megawatt hours for the last quarter with average hourly generation of 9.9 net megawatts per hour. Plant operated at 99.9% availability for the quarter and 95.4% for the year. You should note we did carry out our first turbine overhaul in 2015 which will ensure continued strong performance from this asset in the future.

At Raft, we generated 75,599 megawatt hours in 2015 compared to 78,798 megawatt hours in 2014. That lower generation is due to one planned maintenance outage that was longer than our normal for that turbine rebuild and then we had one unplanned outage due to the failure of a set of bearings on the turbine. We cut a lot of that losses up by the end of the year however. This continues to be an excellent plant which operates at consistent high availability and will continue to provide very stable generation with a good upside, now that we own the majority of the project.

Our operations team continues to ensure strong and stable performance at each of our power plants and it’s a major reason why US Geothermal provides consistent year-over-year performance. As you are aware, management has placed a lot of emphasis on expanding our megawatt output. And we now have in place a very strong pipeline of development projects and plant upgrades which I will summarize for you.

Slide 13, I will begin with our WGP Geysers project which is located about an hour and half north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, California. During the year we completed flow test on three of the four production wells that confirmed the steam supply is sufficient to support a 30 megawatt power plant. We’re also well on the way to getting an updated conditional use permit from Sonoma County which is expected to be issued in the second quarter of 2016. That permit is required to start construction. And this week on March 6, we received the approved transmission interconnection agreement from the CAISO, that's the California Independent System Operator, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

Pacific Gas & Electric is responsible for the design, engineering and construction of the new interconnection facilities which will support up to 35 megawatts of transmission capacity. We are continuing our discussions for a power purchase agreement with several interested parties following in which we will proceed to raise the necessary capital for development and construction.

On March 1 we submitted a PPA proposal under our request for proposals from one of the Community Choice Aggregators in the San Francisco Bay Area. We're also currently preparing another bid submittal for a different entity that will be submitted within the next 30 days. And we know several other entities that are expected to issue renewable RFPs in California this year.

At El Ceibillo project in Guatemala, we received government approval for a modified project development schedule and were able to proceed with additional drilling in the latter half of 2015. This drilling program, which followed up on some temperature gradient work in 2014 led to the discovery of a commercial reservoir at approximately 392 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees centigrade. And we are now proceeding with well testing to acquire additional data for the reservoir model. We anticipate further drilling in 2016 and are proceeding with a plan for a minimum 25 megawatt project. But remember that the ultimate size of a project will be determined by the size of the reservoir. Since we have now confirmed the commercial resource, discussions with potential off-takers are underway. And there is a good possibility that a geothermal power RFP will come out in 2016 from the Guatemalan government.

At Raft River, as you know we acquired the majority of co-owner Goldman Sachs interest bringing our current ownership up to 95% with the option to purchase the remaining 5% after the end of 2017. This gives us increased cash flow from the property. And the new ownership structure allows US Geothermal to invest in new drilling to improve the plant’s output and to increase its contribution to your company.

After the end of first quarter 2016, we expect to receive our first scheduled cash distribution from Raft River which currently has about $1.4 million in the project account. We have plants identified to increase the output of the plant which involves drilling a new leg on one of our production wells. And if that’s successful we hope to increase plant output by up to three megawatts annual average which allows us to take advantage of the full 13 megawatt output allowed under the PPA.

Neal Hot Springs is our next upgrade project. It's a terrific asset that continues to perform very well. We plan on drilling again in 2016 to find a dependable fresh water supply to support our hybrid cooling project. If we're successful, the hybrid cooling system could be online in mid 2017 and has the potential to add another three annual average megawatts worth of power generation to the project revenue stream. In round numbers, one megawatt of generation at Neal is worth about $1 million per year in additional revenue.

Slide 14. In late 2015, we were able to conclude a key strategic value enhancing acquisition that will have a very favorable impact on our growth in the future. That is the acquisition of three unconstructed binary power plants that we acquired in December. First, we're very familiar with these plants since we already operate the same equipment packages at our San Emidio and Neal Hot Springs projects. If we’d purchased these at their full price, the total cost would have been close to $30 million. We paid $1.5 million which it is fair to say is a significant savings. The lower project capital cost that results will allow us to bid more competitively in the power market.

Most importantly, we have the ability to use these plants when and where needed. Meaning, we can construct a new project or add on to an existing one. The flexibility to support just in both timing and cost is terrific.

To summarize, we have 45 megawatts of power in production and another 96 megawatts in our development pipeline. We're very focused on bringing these projects forward and growing value for all shareholders.

Dennis, I will turn it back over to you.

Dennis Gilles

Thanks, Doug. In closing, I will repeat the 2016 guidance that we provided in yesterday's press release.

Based on our current operations only, we expect our operating revenue to be in the $29 million to $34 million range; our adjusted EBITDA to be in the $15 million to $19 million range; EBITDA $14 million to $18 million and net income as adjusted of $4 million to $8 million.

Additionally for the first time we are providing guidance for U.S. Geothermal only, which is less minority interests. We expect adjusted EBITDA of $9 million to $12 million and net income as adjusted of $1 million to $4 million. We have a number of development opportunities that can improve this performance. And I do want to point out, as the year progresses as we have done in the past, we will be tightening the range on all of our guidance.

Moving to Slide 16. You will note that we voluntarily delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange at the end of 2015. The TSX has served us well over the years. But the vast majority of our stock, about 98% is traded on the NYSE. The delisting represents a savings of approximately $300,000 annually. Our Board of Directors has authorized a share buyback program which we had previously announced and has undertaken a review of strategic alternatives with the hiring of Marathon Capital and that process is still underway.

On the legislative front, I want to remind you that California earlier this year passed legislation requiring that 50% of all retail power comes from renewable sources by 2030. Oregon has also recently passed similar legislation requiring 50% of all their retail sales to come from renewable energy by 2040. Both states are also requiring a phase out of the use of coal power. And the U.S. government has extended the 30% tax credit to renewable power projects that begin construction by the start of 2017.

Moving to Slide 17. Our mission is to become the U.S. leading renewable energy company providing power round the clock 27x7. With 45 megawatts in production and another 96 megawatts in our advanced stage pipeline, we're well on our way to reaching our target of 200 megawatts by 2020 and of course with a corresponding market cap which we project at over $1 billion.

The issue of climate change around the world has grown tremendously over the last few years and shows no sign of abating. Government and industries are increasingly favoring renewable energy over fossil fuels. Geothermal is the best form of renewable energy since it is non-intermittent like most other familiar forms. And we intend to work hard to ensure we can grow this company for the benefit of all of our shareholders and to make our contribution to impact climate change. And we welcome that challenge.

And now operator, I'd like to turn it over to you for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Jim McIlree with Chardan Capital.

Jim McIlree

Yeah, thanks a lot. So in the 10-K you indicate that Raft River will require $3 million -- for the development projects, excuse me, Raft River will require $3 million, Neal $10 million and San Emidio Phase 2, $16 million, and I'm trying to understand, if you stick to the development schedule that -- again you laid out in the K. When would you need that capital, how would that phase in? Is it back-end loaded, is it kind of evenly distributed between now and the end of those projects? Can you give a little bit of an indication about how they're spread out and also what you're thinking about in terms of debt and equity financing of those incremental commitments?

Dennis Gilles

Thanks Jim. I guess taking from the start, the first one is our Raft River project and that project costs between $2.5 million and $3 million. And its capital requirement will be in the next two to three months. Following that will be our Neal project. The Neal project is about $10 million that we're projecting. And a good portion of that we’re anticipating will come from project reserves that are already on account -- in various capital accounts on that project. The balance so that is anticipated to be needed about early part of 2017, I would say.

Following that, our San Emidio and – will take the WGP Geysers project next. Our view is the equity for that project has been invested already and we're anticipating the additional capital that's required for that project will come from financing. We're going to have construction financing and long term financing and we're not anticipating that any additional equity will be necessary for that project. And then our San Emidio project well require additional equity and the Geysers spending would occur between now and the later part of 2017, is when the bulk of that spending would occur, mostly across the year 2017. And what was the last one – the San Emidio that you asked about. Again a small amount of equity there and then we will be doing construction financing. But wish to point out we've already acquired the power plant that would be proposed to be put on that site. And as Doug pointed out, that was one of the three units that we acquired. That was $30 million worth of equipment that we acquired for $1.5 million. So I believe our equity contribution is probably already taken care of on that project as well.

Jim McIlree

Great, that's very helpful. And do you have any debt retirement obligations coming due in the next 12 months and 24 months?

Kerry Hawkley

Of course, the DOE loan is projected at over the next 22 years and the revenue of course should go first to pay down that debt. We have a loan with SAIC that is about $1.1 million that we will pay down between now and mid 2017. And then we have the Prudential loan, it’s about $30 million and that's about another 24 years I think, as far as making those payments. So as far as Neal and San Emidio all of that's scheduled out over the next 20 plus years; SAIC over the next two years.

Jim McIlree

And I think my last one is, on Slide 17 you talked about a $1 billion market cap for 200 megawatts of capacity. I am just curious where you came up with the $5 million per megawatt metric?

Dennis Gilles

We've looked internally at what our projected revenue off of each of the projects that we're anticipating, putting into production is. And we've looked at what the cost associated with those projects is. And based on that projected EBITDA of each of those projects using appropriate multiple, that's what we come up, a number that's in excess of $1 billion.

Operator

Our next question comes from Bryan Lee with Private Management Group.

Bryan Lee

Hi guys, thanks for taking the question. Could you just give us a little more color around that the Goldman Raft River? Any details around how that negotiation took place and maybe why you couldn't have jointly upgraded the project under the old agreement? And then on top of that maybe any color around the timing of that, extra EBITDA on the 3.6 megawatt hours starting to flow through.

Dennis Gilles

Sure, and thanks for the question. As you know, Goldman has been our tax equity partner in that project since we've built it. The project did not produce the revenue and cash flow that we would have liked in the early years. We had some difficulties with wells. And in the end we found that Goldman was not willing to invest any additional capital in that project. And then in the last year or so they contemplated putting a package of their renewable energy projects up for sale which included their interest in Raft River. So we asked that we be able to buy that separately and they agreed with them. So we negotiated a price. And you can imagine the negotiations with Goldman no matter how small the deal are long. But in any case we came to what we thought was a fair value. And as we've mentioned, it’s extremely, extremely important to us that it now allows us to unlock what we think this additional potential is.

I'd also note that while the ownership -- we talked about ownership increased from 50% to 95% under the terms of the tax equity deal. The cash flow was originally 1% for us and 95% for Goldman until they were paid their return. That's now changed to 95% of that cash flow coming to us. They're going to stay until the end of 2017 so they can use the production tax credit. They’re still the tax equity partner. They get 5% of the cash flow after that. So we're going to see an increase in cash flow out of that project. I’d also note that U.S. Geothermal had a $1.65 million repair loan on the project where we did some well repairs, had to loan the project money three years ago. That loan was paid off last year. So despite what you've seen in the last year is most of the cash flow coming out of that project we're paying off that loan back to US Geothermal. So that loan is now gone as well.

As far as the new leg on this production well, it's RRG-2. We've estimated the cost to add that legs, rework the pump, do some additional upgrades at $2.5 million to $3 million all in. We would really like to get that done by the May timeframe this year before summer starts and summer prices kick in. And again at Raft River every megawatt is worth about $0.5 million a year in additional revenue. To give you an example, we've drilled the same sort of deviated leg at RRG-4 which was a non-commercial well at Raft River when we got the project. We redirected that new leg across the fault zone that carries the production areas. And that well is now our largest producing well and produces over 200 gallons a minute of fluid. Our idea would be to redo that, to get another RRG-4 out of RRG-2 and get that additional production. And we'd really like to see an additional 3 megawatts or more if we're lucky. At worst case, if we get one or two megawatts, you can do the math on what the return will be. But we should, assuming we go forward, get that done this spring, we'll start seeing an additional revenue in the very end of the second quarter and then third quarter would have an all in there.

Bryan Lee

Now the PPA is up to that 13 megawatt per hour. Is there an opportunity to actually increase that PPA at the project or is that kind of maxed out there?

Doug Glaspey

The 13 megawatt annual average will pretty much max that out. So we don't think we can go back to Idaho Power and expand on that PPA. We haven't ever considered doing that. We will also have to upgrade our transmission a little bit. But if we do nothing, we're going to expect about $1 million a year cash flow out of this project now, which is still a good project, an ROI project for the company.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Mr. Gilles, there appear to be no more questions over the phone lines.

Kerry Hawkley

Okay. We do have, operator, some questions that have come to us over the Internet. So I will read those and we will respond.

Your WGP Geysers project appears to be the costliest development project to bring to completion. How optimistic are you that you will reach a PPA in 2016? If so, what amount of capital will you need to raise to get the project underway?

Dennis Gilles

I'll take that one. We're real optimistic that we're going to obtain a PPA in 2016. I think the change in RPS that I noted earlier in my section with regards to California and Oregon, as a result of that legislation we've seen increased interest -- dramatically increased interest from community choice segregators, municipalities in California. And we're in the process of responding to that. That's a very large RPS requirement and it can't be met solely by intermittent such as wind and solar and base-load power such as geothermal or biomass would be necessary to meet a good portion of that. So we see that creating opportunity for us.

The transmission interconnection that we had was a significant obstacle that we had in order to move that project forward and now that it's behind us, it allows us to provide a firm completion date in our PPAs that we're responding to. We believe, as I touched on in Jim McIlree’s question that the equity requirements for that project have already been met. So once we have a PPA we anticipate our next step will be to secure a construction loan and then after COD the long term financing and tax equity partner. Between that long term financing and the tax equity contribution we see that meeting all the additional requirements for capital for that project. So we are optimistic that that project will move forward. And I do want to point out as a 30 megawatt project, out of the total 45 megawatts that we have, roughly 30 is our current ownership. So the Geysers project alone would double the size of our company.

Kerry Hawkley

Okay. I have question number two. Great that you acquired the three binary power plants at a bargain. But how and when will you put this acquisition to work? Where will they most likely be deployed? Is there any near term use for these assets?

Doug Glaspey

I'll get that question, Kerry. We are in the geothermal power business. We are going to be developing projects. Acquiring these three power plants just gives us a tremendous advantage. In our current development portfolio, one of these units can go to San Emidio Phase 2. It's just the right size for it. And the remaining two units could go directly to our Crescent Valley Phase 1 which is a 25 megawatt net design project. We have incorporated these savings in our capital costs and adjusted those costs which are on Page 13 of our 10-K. Having these plants in hand essentially also provides us short term opportunities. There are development projects out there that are almost in need of a power plant and having the ability to come in with a low cost power plant and either earning on the project or acquire the project becomes a great benefit for us. So we look at this thing long term. There are potential short term uses of course but planning for the future is part of what we do. And saving all this money on CapEx was a really good decision in our view.

Kerry Hawkley

Okay. Another question, do you intend to start drilling any new projects to secure the 30% tax credit by the end of 2016?

Dennis Gilles

I would say, to respond to that, right now, because we've begun construction on our Geysers project, our San Emidio project and on our Crescent Valley project, all three of those qualify for the 30% tax credit under the way that legislation is written. Because they started construction prior to 1/1 of ’17. We could begin on additional projects but right now we have no plans to begin drilling on any of our other development activities. We've got – if we can move these three forward, we'll have our hands full for a short period of time.

Kerry Hawkley

Okay and then we have one final series of questions. What is the status of San Emidio 2? With Oregon passing the new laws like California, why hasn't Vale and Neal Hot Springs too moved to the front of development scheduling after WGP and Guatemala?

Doug Glaspey

San Emidio 2, we are -- as you know we drilled some deep temperature gradient wells last year. We found a very interesting heat anomaly. What we've applied for now with the BLM is to deepen some of those TG wells to try and intersect resource. Oddly enough, with existing drill pads and existing drill casing in the ground, we're going on something like four to five months now to get permission from the BLM. So that right now it is purely a permitting exercise with the BLM. I wish I could explain easily what the hang up has been, there is no technical reason. The BLM, despite the federal government's desire to add renewable energy, hasn’t seemed to have got the message quite frankly, and they're constrained by a lot of court cases and just the fear of making the wrong move. So again we expect to get that permission soon -- sooner rather than later now -- and hope to drill those holes this year.

As far as Vale in the state of Oregon, that bill was just passed in the state of Oregon in the last week or two. So we really haven't modified any of our plans today. It will, we want to see kind of how it plays I guess with the utilities in the state. There are some possible cost sharing mechanisms for exploration at Vale. But as Dennis said, we have a bit of a full plate right now with three development projects already qualified for the ATC. And we do have to maintain continuous construction. So it's important for us to balance our expenditures with the cash we have.

Kerry Hawkley

That concludes the questions that we received via the web. Operator, in the meantime have you received any additional questions?

Operator

No, I have not received any further questions over the phone line.

Dennis Gilles

Okay. If not, then, we'll conclude the Q&A portion.

End of Q&A

Operator

Okay. Mr. Gilles, would you like to make any closing remarks?

Dennis Gilles

Yeah, I just want to thank everybody for taking their time today to join our call. We're excited about the opportunities that we have ahead. We're seeing movement now that allows us to move those development projects forward. And as noted in earlier calls, we continue to look at additional M&A opportunities and are just very excited with the opportunities that those could present for us. We thank you all for your continued support of U.S. Geothermal and look forward to our future together. Thank you, operator.

Operator

This concludes today's conference. Thank you for your participation. You may disconnect your lines at this time.

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