Seeking Alpha
We cover over 5K calls/quarter
Profile| Send Message|
( followers)  

CMS Energy Corporation (NYSE:CMS)

Bank of America Power and Gas Leaders Conference Call

September 19, 2012 3:00 pm ET

Executives

Jimmy Addison – Chief Financial Officer, SCANA Corp.

Thomas J. Webb – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Phillip McAndrews – Director-Investor Relations

Analysts

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

For next panel, we’ve got rate base growth story and both these companies have very substantial investment plan that we’ll hear more about today. First of all, we have Tom Webb, Tom is the Chief Financial Officer of CMS Energy, and he want me to say, he has been the CEO for the last 30 years. And then we’ll have Jimmy Addison, Jimmy is the Chief Financial Officer of SCANA Corp. So let me turn it over to Tom to kick it off. Thank you.

Thomas J. Webb

Thank you for that CEO thing, in fact you’re going to do it seriously now. I was going to tell him, I want to getting the full attention I would do. Steve, thank you for having us. This is one of the greatest conferences that you’re having, so it’s a privilege to be here in front of you, next to Jimmy and be invited, Steve to be the part of where we are now.

What I got to do first here is, as you start reading now with care because I’m not forwarding until you’re done. So put your hands up when you’re finished reading through this and while you are taking a look at it, I do have Phil McAndrews with me here somewhere off there in the back, with investor relations. He is a real pro, and most of you know him and for all the questions you asked later on, that I don’t have answers too, he does.

And on this slide be careful on our forward-looking statements and make sure you look at the GAAP reconciliation that we have provided on our website and the risk factors that we have and we hope we are in pretty good shape.

Okay today, I’m going to do some material in a very brief period of time that should look familiar to you, but when we’re talking about the theme at least for this particular section about where we’re doing in rate making, and what’s unique, I’m going to talk a little bit about an interesting self-limitation that we have told many of you about that have seen this before, that we put upon ourselves that causes us to grow a little bit slower. And you could say why? But I believe almost every utility does this in some fashion or not, but some may be with more passion than others and more needs than others whatever it may be.

So this is the model that we’ve been using for nearly 10 years now, very simple. We’re investment driven that’s not too unique for most utilities. We have a bunch of enablers, and I’m going to right through them and show them to you now, which includes things like the Energy Law that was the comprehensive law in the State of Michigan gives us forward test year, gives us all kinds of features to make the regulatory process smoother so we’re fortunate to have that.

We have good constructive regulation; I will show you a little bit about that. A lean O&M, I know every CFO is going to get up and tell you here that we’re really lean, but we could be leaner. So and it’s never meant as a personal comment, because and I’ll get all my button around it, so it’s not that kind of lean, but we’re proud of where we are and I think we have more than we can do in taking costs out of the company big enabler. And to the extent, that you have a good sales recovery that for us, isn’t a profit making or a cash flow making thing, but it provides a more headroom in our service territory where there is more opportunity to split our costs over greater base. And then the NOL and who is not familiar with our piece of the NOL story, allows us to avoid having the issue in a big box of equity for a long time.

Now the unique part I’m going to come to is the self-limitation. Why would anybody limit themselves on their ability to grow, and ours is on rate. It’s very simple and I’ll show you a slide on it, but I’ll tell you right upfront. I think it’s the key message for us. If we can keep our base rate growth below the level of inflation and it’s different for you and it’s different for you. But we’ve got to look at some averages to figure out how to do this; then we have a chance to have a long-term sustainable growth plan. If we come in spurts, then there is a chance that there will be more resistance and it will be more difficult to execute your plan. So that is the thing that I think is a little bit different for some companies and certainly for us.

Here is an example on how this works. So our next five years, we’re planning to invest capital to the tune of about $6.6 billion over a five year period. We could easily be investing $10 billion, so why not? And it’s a great opportunity to increase your earnings growth and generating more revenue and cash flow, but the reason is that sustainability. If you look at the bottom of this slide, you’ll see right there that, as long as we stay in that $6 billion, $7 billion zone in general, then our customer base rates will go up a little less than 2%. But if we were to go over to the $10 billion side, even if there was practical, possible and we that we can do it. Then we be closer to 4% and that’s probably just too much in this inflation environment to ask your customers.

So, what works against you? We're going to need to put some more capacity in place and we're going to hear a good capacity story I think in just a minute but, we need to put some capacity in place because we’ve got seven small coal plants that we’ll probably have to close down. Right now we’re looking at mothballing them, but if we do close them down, we’ve got to replace that capacity and that’s the green bars that you see, plus cover the growth that we have.

While there’s a lot of ways to solve that, but one way is to do a bit of a no-brainer for somebody in our area, and just put in one more gas capacity. But if you do that it's going to cost money, so you’ve got to watch that investment for how you can fit it in. And here is the impact now for what we're looking at over the next five years.

On the left side of this slide, you will see that in the electric business, our base rates are planned to go up a little more than 1% and that’s in the dark blue. And then over in the gas side of the business in the next five, you will see our base rates are actually plan to up a little less than 1%, but now look at grey area. With all the pass through of the fuel cost and GCRs on the right and PSCR in the left, you can see electrically it will be declining about 3%, and gas will be down for obvious reasons by about 2. So we need to be cognizant of that too, trying to look after our customers, and you can see some of the things on the right side, that we’ve actually done to make that possible and happen.

I’m going to deviate for a minute because risk mitigation is a very important thing, and you can see we have a couple of things going in on our State, one about Choice Retail Open Access. Where there are some folks who would like to raise the cap, we have 10% cap on Choice today. And there are some other folks who want to go the other way. They want to eliminate the Choice completely. We are not very concerned about this and you can kind of read into that when you look at the slides that you see up here that the Chairman of the House Energy & Technology Committee actually entered a bill that instead of increasing the Choice cap that will get rid off Choice completely. So you can see there is tension on both sides, my own view is, nothing is going to happen in the near term. Then we have another interesting thing.

Over on the left stock, you see we have six valid proposals in our State, in the State of Michigan, and one of them is around renewable energy, and these are shown in the order that will actually show up in the balance. And on the renewable side is to amend the constitution to have a plan to get to 25% renewable by the year 2025. Now, it has a little cap in it, it said for this you wouldn’t be able to increase your rates by more than 1% each year. But remember the earlier slide. So now we’re talking about base rates going up a little more than 1%, now they are going to be going up a little more than 2%, if this were passed, a lot of detail, we’ll have to figure it out. The experts tell me this is probably not going to pass, but when you’re talking about going into a polling booth and sort of clicking the button, I still think it’s hard for people to predict how that will go. So our interest was annoying, it’s a big pack what would have mean, more revenue, more profits for you, more cash flow for you, but unfortunately higher price for our customers. So we prefer not to see that happen. We preferred to see renewables manage through something less than constitutional amendment, so that they can be a bit more fluid and a bit more thoughtful.

Now here is an area that we’re fortunate, I suppose there are times when you would look at something like an Energy Law and regulation and you might say, that’s not enabler, it goes the other way. For us we’re very fortunate. The 2008 Law, which I won’t go through here is very comprehensive and assist us in a tremendous way in executing our work in the State of Michigan. It was in place in the fall of 2008 and today we have three commissioners, two of which were there during the original votes around the Energy Law. And at the time Orji who you see in the middle was Chairman Orji, and his name is always very complicated to people. so he likes being called Orji, and we’re glad for that. He was very helpful to us in getting the law in place. and then implementing the pieces of the law, know-how exactly as may be everyone would wish, but in a very good fashion. and he’s left a very strong legacy behind.

Now you can see by the date there, on when his term ends, he has to leave us by July of next year. So there will be a new commissioner in place there, which I think will be a very interesting thing. We’ll miss Orji, but I’m sure there will be a new good appointment to help the new chair, Chairman, John Quackenbush who is trying very hard to streamline processes and bringing in a more organized approach to the rate making process, which is always well received I think by almost all parties.

So here’s a picture of something that he has done. this is a photo of some selective members of the Public Service Commission staff along with the three commissioners in the top box. The Chairman is using the Executive Director more than I think he has been used in the past. he has appointed Bill Stosik that you see on the left bottom side to be director of Financial Analysis, and Dan Blair is coming over from another part of the commission staff to run the Regulated Energy side. And these folks are bringing some new ways of thinking and more effective ways of putting the Energy Law into place.

so we gain are fortunate to have that team, and we meet with them as a team frequently now, more frequently than in the past to make sure there’s good educations around how our business is going, and how it affects the state and our customers. So when it comes to rate cases and matters of that kind, they’re more informed decisions than they might have been in the past. It’s a little track record of the rate cases we’ve had since the Energy Law; you can see that we’ve done pretty good at trying to keep the actual orders, pretty close to where we were self-implementing. and then last night, we announced that today, we would be filing a new electric rate case.

And this is a summary of that, you can see our request is for $148 million, and 85% of that is related strictly to the capital investment, to a share of that $6.6 billion that we’d spend over the next five years. This is part of our routine annual process, but there’s some new features in this particular rate case. and they’re shown on the right side of the chart, and they’re called adjustment mechanisms or maybe trackers or a different word, pension, uncollectible accounts, but two, I think are probably more interesting to you; the one called revenue, is a means to replace the decoupling for the electric business that was not permitted through an appeals court case on a DTE related case.

and unfortunately, the judge did a plain reading of law, and said you know the law does refer to decoupling for gas and doesn’t mention the word electric, but the commission does have full authority to track. So this is a way of trying to continue to at least track or decouple the energy efficiency side of the business, although we’re requesting efficiency, economy and weather or so 100%.

And then the last one that’s mentioned on the slide there is capital investment. We’ve been encouraged to look at a new way of thinking about capital investment since the bulk of our rate cases is always capital investment, what if you had a mechanism in place where you could actually agree on what those investments were. and then you follow those sort of like a pass through and buying gas or buying electric power, buying coal or buying rail services. So that you actually get a good look to approve what’s going to be done, and then you monitor that as a staff and you audit what’s there to make sure, what the company said, they were going to do, they did do at the right level, and make any adjustments to that at the end of that tracking period.

So we’re proposing a two-year tracking as a way to give a try at this, which means, we would likely not have one of those annual regular rate cases, because there’s nothing left to ask for once we get into this particular area. so this will be an interesting approach to watch. we’re happy to have it or not have it, but we’ll see how it plays.

Now on the cost side, another important enabler is to be able to keep your cost in line, and we think of it not for the profit motive, but for the customers. to keep their rates as low as we possible can, because we make our money on the capital investment, so this is just a simple track and you could pick your point in time. But since 2006 to the last year that we can get data for our peers at 2011, this suggests that the O&M cost for non-fuel was up around 7% on average and we were about flat and on the right side of the box, you can see some of the tools for how we get there. So what, where are you today?

This chart shows that O&M as a percent of revenue on the left and overhead as a percent of revenue on the right is pretty good, I mean we’re at about 18% on O&M, and you can see where our peers are. So there is room to move there and we’re about 2% on overhead, and you could say oops, you must not be able to get better than that. And I can assure you that we can, there is more work to do, more efficiencies to be gotten to bring the overhead cost down even more.

Now possibly more important to you, so where you’re going to go? This year, which is not in the data that we just looked at there, we expect to have our O&M cost down 6%. And then as we look forward through the remaining years of our five-year plan, we expect the cost to be about flat and there is a list of examples, and I won’t go through those for time sake that you can see just ideas for some other things that we’re actually doing to make that possible. And if we find the way to keep it to be negative instead of just flat, we’ll work hard to do that as well.

How is the economy in Michigan? This is just a quick look. Most of you are familiar with the left side of the chart, which shows the longer-term history for our electric business on a weather-adjusted basis. And then when you look at the right side, you get a year-by-year look at the recession and the recovery. And I’ll draw your attention to two points on that. One, if you see the bright green circle in the bottom right hand corner, that’s actually our sales growth over the first half of the year 3% and you can see the makeup by sector, the industrial being the big drive and the industrial guys have fully recovered to prerecession levels. And then if you look up in the top bar on the right, that’s our forecast at 2%. So we are little conservative, those of you that have gotten to know us, gotten to know me, that’s the way we’d rather be, we’d rather be on the safe side rather than promising something more than it might happen.

But we did put a little feature on this, that maybe of interest. In the little dotted blue parts of the three right bars is what if you took out the energy efficiency that we’ve been working on for the last three years, and we keep a close track on this, because we actually get an incentive for being able to get the energy efficiencies really in place for our customers.

As you can see there, you take out roughly a point. So this gives you a look at the underlying economics that are going on in Michigan. In our service territory, the growth has been around 2.5% over the last couple of years and we think it might be that or a little bit better this year. The real numbers are in the dark blue, the dotted line just takeout the efficiencies, so that you can see what’s really happening to customers.

Another key enabler is the NOLs, here is a chart that shows the gross numbers at the bottom of the blue bars, and then in the blue bars the actual net benefit of NOLs along with credits and you can see that helps us from having to issue any equity. So that’s the circle that we follow, it’s the path we’ve been on for some time, it is not perfect, and it is not easy, but it’s very deliverable, and that’s what it shows up in this chart except for one year when we sold the large amount of our international assets and couldn’t redeploy that cash quicker than getting that into rate cases back then we just have lags.

So you saw the benefit in the following year, and we couldn’t get the benefit of the interest savings that came with lowering debt for a full year until the following year. You can see with that exception, we’ve been right on track for a good number of years with the growth of about 8%, and we continue to project 5% to 7% growth in the future, and a dividend that we’ll try to keep the payout competitive on, and I think you can see there a pretty good recovery track even though we wished we didn’t have to have the recovery that it didn’t stayed right up at the whole time.

This is to look at our track record compared to the S&P 500 and the UTY, in terms of TSR over the last three years and last 10 years. We feel pretty good about it, but we know that history and you are interested in where we are going in the future and so it’s on the right side of the chart where we continue to work hard to deliver to you 5% to 7% earnings growth, and a good solid dividend yield which could end up in a TSR of around 9% to 11%.

So just as to wrap up, the key takeaways that I would ask you to think about are around transparent investment that drives this, and it really is not the sales growth, and it really is not the O&M reductions, those are enablers to pass good news due to our customers. We’ve got amounting evidence of a pretty good relationship with our regulators and we are pleased for that, we are fortunate for that, and we work hard. We’ve always said whoever is selected into a position as who we work with, and I think that’s the best approach to take and it’s worked well.

The economy continues to improve, but I’m as nervous as any of you about what’s happening to the U.S. economy. So I don’t like to get anybody excited on that subject. I’ll be happy when the elections are over and the cliff is passed and some other things are handled so that we can begin to build a little more certainty for our customers because when we do that, then we rest a bit easier.

The cash flow, it’s growing about a $100 million a year with our program from an operating cash flow basis helps us grow the earnings and delivers that dividend growth, that I know that you appreciate, most of you at least.

And then S&P and Moody’s have made their own judgment. They have us on credit rating positive outlook now and we put no pressure on for that. We just try to be transparent with them. So they do what they think is right, and move when they think they should move, and that adds to a pretty good consistent track record that we’re proud off, that’s certainly among some of the better companies, and I think you’re going to get a chance now when I turn this over to Jimmy to hear about on the NOC use in Asia that I’ve been told, to tell you little about – more about another great story. Jimmy?

Jimmy Addison

Thank you, Tom, and Steve, thank you for having us here. When I first heard from Iris, our IR person who is here and also Jeff Archie is here, our Chief Nuclear Officer. When I first heard from Iris that we were paired up with CMS, I said what do we really have in common and now that I’ve heard Tom’s presentation, I see a whole lot. So once again, you’ve put together an interesting, I think comparable panel at least from an investor’s standpoint here, although we get there in different ways for sure.

So I’m going to run through a few slides here over 15 minutes or so. And then we will go to Steve’s questions. Somehow I’m sure of Safe Harbor statement or as Steve Byrne, our COO says, something about boding safety. So if you would like to read through this, please do. Iris will be glad to give you a take home copy of it.

As far as our strategy as a company, nothing has really changed and that won’t surprise you, other than transition of our CEO from Bill Timmerman to Kevin Marsh nothing has really changed, we’re the same folks doing the same thing in the same place within that consistency is what we are about for our customers and for you.

We continue to focus on what we think we do well and where we do it well. Growth is accelerating in our territories. We’ve got constructive regulation. We’ve got about two-thirds of our CapEx in our regulated businesses that are inside of different kind of mechanisms or regulatory wrappers. And our nuclear EPC has two-thirds of that contract with either fixed cost or costs that are fixed with an escalator that is published and known.

If you’re going to be in a regulated business then we are in 95% of it, you better have good relationship with those regulators and you see in the bottom pie charts there by earnings or by assets how it breaks down, but roughly 95% of our business is regulated, the other 5% or 6% is the Georgia business, where it’s the marketing business. But I would tell you the only thing that’s not regulated there is price and it’s even regulated how you set that price although not the price of it, but the timing of it, how it’s done et cetera. So the business is a very similar and very similar market.

Here is our customer growth chart over the last three linked quarters and I’m glad to say then in all three of our regulated businesses, South Carolina Electric business, the South Carolina Gas business and the North Carolina Gas business on the bottom the growth rate has been accelerating. We’re encouraged by this. I’m also a conservative person. I’m yet to call this a trend, you might call it a trend, I’m yet to call it a trend, I want to see a longer period than this, I want to particularly get past these huge events this fall, this fiscal cliff et cetera that Tom discussed earlier before I really get confidence in these longer-term.

Particularly in the gas business, you see noted in the green boxes that a significant portion of this is due to conversion and the largest amount of conversion there is from propane supply, where natural gas enjoys about one-third of the comparable price of propane today. So in some of the more rural areas that were initially supplied with propane, we can now go in with natural gas into sub-divisions et cetera and offer a real price advantage and that is why you see much larger growth rates than you do in the electric business.

Here is an interesting chart and I alluded to this last quarter on the call, but this is the commercial electric customer growth. And if you look at our commercial construction, it’s basically flat year-over-year. But I hope a hidden gem inside of that is that, we’re adding a substantial amount of commercial customers, almost twice the amount of residential customers and that’s very encouraging. Then you might say, well overall they’re still not using anymore than they were a year ago and you’ve got more and more customers attached on the commercial side.

But when you’ve got more dry cleaners, more restaurants, et cetera coming on, that’s a real good sign I think around the economy. And I think the reason that overall is just flat, is just the kind of tendered nature of folks concerned around the economy that we’ve talked about earlier. But hopefully long-term this is a good trend.

Recent economic activities in the Carolina, is the blue shaded area, is our territory and we’ve been very fortunate to have a very large Amazon facility located just about a half mile for our corporate headquarters with 2,000 jobs. We have the Boeing, kind of the cornerstone of our development the last year and half. Now there is 787 Dreamliner, assembly facilities just outside of Charleston with 3,800 direct jobs, about 10,000 total direct and indirect jobs. They just rolled out their first 787 Dreamliner, and delivered it to

Air India few weeks ago. So that is progressing well as far as the jobs perspective.

Additionally, the next phase that I’ve rolled up here are tires. And South Carolina has for quite awhile been significant in the tire manufacture business. Michelin North America is headquartered in South Carolina. But in the last year and a half, we’ve had substantial announcements from Continental, from Bridgestone and from Michelin. They are not just passenger tires, but a lot of these large earthmover tires that are $50,000 to $70,000 each. It is custom made for the terrains they are going to operate in, pre-sold and custom ordered. These are significant and you can only get two of them in a shipping container, if you see them on the interstate these are huge tires. And this has been a real boon for the economy in South Carolina, good high paying manufacturing jobs based upon a real good technical college system in the states.

When these are all up and full of capacity, South Carolina will lead for North Carolina and Oklahoma is the number one state manufacturing tires in the country.

What’s not on this chart is a little project we’ll get too later on the V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 or just project team has about 1,000 employees working now building it and will ultimately see at about 3500 employees, so that’s been a very good investment back in to the economy. And one of really lead things about that is about 60% of the employees and contractors on that site comes from the State of South Carolina. So that has been very important to our politicians and the regulators. And here is the total cumulative dollars, about close to $4 billion over the last two years.

In North Carolina, a different but also a positive story. In yellow, our gas service territories. We’ve had several beer manufacturers located in North Carolina. Some other miscellaneous manufacturers there as well. There is also a restart of a truck manufacturing facility that created 1,100 jobs in and around our territory. So good story in North Carolina as well. It was a little slower coming back than South Carolina, but coming back now.

So, what I wanted to do in the next four, five slides just walkthrough each of our regulated businesses and provide you with the details that you normally use in your various models. First, the SCE&G electric business, separate from the new nuclear. So our actual allowed return on equity is about 7.25% that’s based upon the recently filed electric rate case.

So the immediately preceding quarter, it was at 8.75%, but once we pro forma in using a historical test year and annualize expenses, annualize depreciation for items that came on late in the year that will, on a pro forma basis, reduce it to about 7.25%. We’re currently allowed 10.7%. We filed the case in June of this year and in South Carolina it’s six months by law for new rates. So those will go into effect in January. The hearing is scheduled for the week after the Thanksgiving Holidays and the request overall is for $151 million.

We do have electric weather normalization in South Carolina; so all of our regulated businesses have weather normalization now. That mechanism added $0.17 per share in our earnings through the second quarter of this year due to the extremely mild weather in both Q1 and Q2.

On the new nuclear part of the business, we have 11% allowed ROE and of course we’re earning at that since this mechanical – that’s under the Base Load Review Act law. We’ve got about $1.1 billion in rate base at this point. We filed the most recent BLRA request in May. I’ll show you a graphical there in a few moments. And the Office of Regulatory Staff has already filed their report reporting $52.1 million increase, which will be effective in November.

In our South Carolina gas business, just under $0.5 billion in rate base. About an 8% allowed – actual ROE where we are allowed 10.25%. In this business, you may recall, we’ve got a mechanism, so that it’s measured each year and if we’re outside of 50 basis points either way, it is adjusted after an audit by the Office of Regulatory Staff. They’ve completed their audits and the new rates will go into effect in November returning that ROE backup to close to the 10.25%.

And in our North Carolina gas business, we are allowed 10.6%; our actual is slightly above that. The difference between this actual and the others is in – in the other jurisdictions, we adjust those based on the end of period cost run rate. In North Carolina, the staff prefers, we just file it as per books, so none of those costs are adjusted. That’s why it may appear on the surface that they’re quote over earnings there. But if you would annualize cost, for example, if you’d take wage increases that were implemented in the middle of the year and extrapolate those for a full year, it will be much closer to that. So we don’t anticipate any concern over that.

Few more details about basic electric case, here is six rate items that make up the $151 million. I’ve already gotten a few questions in one-on-ones today about do we expect to reach a settlement? We are certainly hopeful. Since the Office of Regulatory Staff was formed by law in South Carolina several years ago, we’ve reached a settlement in every case we’ve been before the Commission. So we’re very interested in that.

I’ve talked to the Head of the ORS. I know they are very interested in it. They are very constructive organization, but they are very independent organization. So we’ll all work our best to try to come to some conclusion on that. Our testimony is due early in October, there is – in late October and that’s what really starts the process around settlement negotiations. So I would expect that somewhere in the early November timeframe, before the hearing in late November.

Our new nuclear project, the projected cost and what we have here presented for you, are four snapshots over the last four years of where the cost started and where they are today for the total projected cost. In blue are the capital costs in 2007 dollars and red is the expected escalation and in green is the AFUDC.

And let me just start there, because of the Base Load Review Act and getting cash rate each year, we project that the AFUDC at the completion of this project under the capitalized interest will be less than 5%. I’ll contrast that for you, for unit 1 that’s operating today where about a third of the cost is capitalized interest cost, because all other went into rate base as the plant was completed and we were in a situation where interest rates were obviously double digits returned back in the early ’80s, that’s how they tell me.

And today, where we look at today is our total capital costs are roughly the same as – projected to be the same as when we started the project, but the real change is in the projected inflation, it has come down. And it’s down about a $0.5 billion based up on where we originally projected. So we thought $1.5 billion would be the total escalation and now we’re projecting that to be less than $1 billion.

So the overall projected cost of the project is roughly $0.5 billion less at least for our 55% share than when we originally began the project. So that’s – as Jeff and Steve say, it’s been a great time to build a nuclear plant, and I would say it’s been a great time to finance the nuclear plant, because we’re financing it for 30-year fixed rate money, at about two-thirds of the price we thought we’ll be financing and all the debts too.

Here is the history of the five years of the base load increases. These are all public for you, you’re familiar with them. The most recent one on the far right in the green is the one I referred to earlier is that ORS has filed the report on. So the $52 million is what we would expect to go into rate November 1.

Now, we do have an update hearing on the project that we do annually and also in this project we’re asking for an additional $283 million of future cost that we now have plans around for things like bringing on staff, to train them, IT systems, et cetera. And the Commission will address those on October 2 and October 3. We would expect that order to be out by mid-November and then every 45 days after quarter end we file an updated quarterly report, which we will do on November 14.

And here is the projected total life of the nuclear project and the bar chart represents the construction costs each year. You can tell that in ’13, ’14 and ’15, we have on average about $1 billion a year. These are the significant years. On the right axis are the customer rate increases. You see over in the box on the far right is the average rate increase is about 2.36% over the life of this construction. So that’s slightly lower than we started off that, which was about 2.5% because of the inflation it’s now projected to be lower.

Our strategy around base rate cases is to get this case done this year that we have filed and then stay out of this base rate environment during these three peak years to avoid any pancaking impact on the customers. So we’ve traditionally followed the two to three year base rate case profit model. And this year, at this point, we’re going to attempt to really stress that on the long end of that and stay out of that rate environment during those three years. We’ve got plenty of rate base growth driven off the new nuclear project.

And here is the schematic of the major items that are being manufactured around the world, showing the various scheduled items, everything in green has been started as you can tell there are a variety of very large components literally being manufactured all around the world. The only thing that has not yet started has been the third unit or the second new unit, turbine generator.

Here are a few photos of the current construction site. This is back from March of this year and shows both the unit 2 and unit 3 pit areas if you will where the sites will be – the plants will be located and the middle is the heavy listed (inaudible) allegedly the largest in the world over 500 feet tall when elevated straight up.

Here are a few more recent photos of the actual work that’s taking place. And you can see on the top left and the reason that date of March is important is that was immediately prior to the receipt of the COL, so we could not have any concrete place of that point. After we receive that COL, in April we started placing dental concrete as you might imagine to filling the cavities in the rock. And then in July, I mean in June, you see lower leveling concrete and the upper mud map and then in July you see the FICO barrier being added above that to keep the moisture from elevating through the concrete. And then here you see the unit two or the first new unit, a current picture at least 30 days ago with the rebar instead on top of the concrete and that’s where most people think of the first nuclear concrete will be poured around that rebar and that is set to occur in October.

So where we’re trying to get to with this, here is our long-term plan on generation mix perspective. Today, you can see we’re heavily driven by coal, when the first new unit comes on, you see the shift that occurs. And then ultimately when the second new unit comes on, we’re basically a third, a third, a third, a third coal, gas and nuclear. And that’s the ultimate goal. And that’s not capacity, on the right we’ll obviously run the nuclear plant flat out other than for refuelings. And due to the low variable cost, the low fuel cost, you’re going to get a substantial more, a higher amount out of the nuclear units.

And the real key to this that we’ll have 60% of our dispatch portfolio on a non-emitting basis. South Carolina today state as a whole not just our territory, 52% of the electricity generated in this state is from nuclear energy. So this will drive it even higher. South Carolina is basically going to be insulated from whatever Washington might decide to do on a carbon basis. We think that’s very important from a long term economic development standpoint.

These slides are not new. I’m going to run through just a few of them here to wrap up. Our CapEx plan has not changed. I mentioned earlier, 65% of our CapEx over this three year period is covered under either the gas or the new nuclear mechanism. Our financing plan has not changed. We estimate through the completion of the project, we have about $500 million of equity left to issue.

Our earnings gadget has not changed 3% to 5% over to the three to five year period and we expect to payout $0.55 to $0.60 of that dollar in dividend. We are slightly about our dividend payout ratio now mainly driven by the recession of a few years ago where we gaining on that. And we expect and our board is committed to growing the dividend back inside of that. So we’ll be inside of that given the next three years base overview at increases.

And then similar to time, here is our track record. Frankly, I would have been very proud to own both of these stocks over the last few years compared to any of these entices, I did own one of them. You can figure out which one that is, but I would love to own some of is too, but it is all about the future. And Steve, that’s it. I’ll turn it over to you.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Okay, thanks gentlemen. Why don’t I maybe just kick off the questions, but just I think both of you kind of into that the importance of managing the capital investments with customer rates and minimizing that impact to tell how do you kind of know what the right level is, is it just target you know got it to stay below inflation et cetera. But how do you – how do you know kind of when you’re getting too high or too low, too high in particular with respect to the limit the customers?

Jimmy Addison

Yeah, a couple of thoughts. First, we were – before I join the company in a rate prices and we learned coming out of that was nobody wanted to be. Because all of a sudden, these are large numbers and very argument at this and people hadn’t been around working rate cases, so it’s all new impression and troubles of thing. The idea that being around inflation is a little artificial, I’ll admit that because everybody’s inflation is different, but it seems like a reasonable starting point to say that if you could keep real prices below or negative that’s a nice place to be.

So the way we get there as we talk to customers. We understand the pressures they’re under to reduce their cost. So they’re looking for all the help that they can get and we talk to our commissioners on what they think is kind of a rationale long-term look for what you’re trying to do and then live within that. So it’s not as scientific for us as it may sound but it’s very personal with each and every customer.

Thomas J. Webb

And Tom I’d just add, I agree with that I mean the inflation is just a benchmark to start with. It’s not a formulae kind of thing. But the other thing I would say is it’s not just the near inflation over a period averaged either it’s about not coming in for a significant shocks.

We got that message loud and clear, and maybe 10 years ago from our commission when we went in for a 10% or so request and ended up with a 6.5% to 7% increase. And I said, yeah there’s much, but come back more frequently with smaller request in the future, make it more or like the brush of NOC moving along.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Okay. Jimmy, maybe a question on the nuclear, and then please open it to the audience after that. Obviously, this is the tremendous project, and you’ve had small issues, but resolve them quite well. When you look at what’s left to achieve, where if any do you see kind of like key milestone points, key maybe, or that puts our key areas of risk in terms of completing the project on budget on time as you like?

Jimmy Addison

Well, the largest diverse I think is behind us now, which is one that was significantly out of our control, which was getting the license from the federal government. So that was one that we had input into, but not control of. Now I think that we’ve really got things down between us and the consortium of Shaw and Westinghouse. It is a much more; it feels like it’s more controllable anyway even if in reality, it’s not, but I believe it is more controllable Mitch and Jeff are Chief Nuclear Officers here. Jeff has got folks very actively involved around the globe at each of those manufacturing sites at various checkpoints to make sure that quality is being achieved along the way.

I don’t think there is any secret on these nuclear projects that right now our bigger concern is probably around the module manufacturing facilities down in Louisiana, each quarter we filed this quarterly report, we have a section in there various concern, we have noted that on the last few quarters. Jeff just had some folks down there last week and is a very encouraged directionally on what’s going on there, now that is getting the right attention. I think the reason that we’re much more confident now, that we do have things within our control is that what’s going on in the Chinese projects with them essentially being two and half to three years ahead of us, manufacturing the same, assembling the same facilities. We’ve learned a lot of lessons from that and we have incorporated into our project. Questions from the audience? Make it tough for me to hear. Tom, maybe you know.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

No, no. another question for Jim.

Jimmy Addison

Please go ahead, yeah.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Thanks.

Jimmy Addison

Feel free.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Tom one, your other company in Michigan DTE, this year right now they have got some money, they can give back to customers, and trying to kind of stay out of rig hikes. Does that create a kind of pressure on you on a relative basis? I mean it’s kind of a special circumstance, but how are you just dealing with the fact that, circumstances are just different, and you are in for a hike and they are trying to delay it?

Thomas J. Webb

No, I would want them to speak for themselves. I think they are fortunate that as the electric decoupling disappeared to the appeals court that they were sitting on a lot of cash and I’ll be doing the same thing, and deploy that as a way of putting off some rate cases. We are not in that situation because our base was different so we had $59 million yet to collect and we wrote that off in the first quarter.

What I do think is, is we have a very fair, a very reasonable commission and a good staff and they recognize that, that probably isn’t the most reasonable thing to have happened to us. So, I think they welcome the idea that we’re in for a new rate case given our position and I think they are going to work with us on a lot of features that are different, that may put us in a position where we can actually avoid having the annual rate cases and maybe stay out for a couple of years.

So, we have some work to do to get there. But I actually think it’s in a nice position where there is more of a warm reception about doing the work and getting the capital rate recovery is necessary, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. So it’s different, but everyone has different circumstances.

Phillip McAndrews

Okay. Question up front, question up front please.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Jimmy, are you still interested in an offering from the government of a loan guarantee? And if so, what’s the status of that?

Jimmy Addison

We stay in touch with them. I guess, it’s probably been 90 days or so since I was on the conference call with them. But we constructed our project from the initiation including the contract; the legislation in South Carolina is built from the beginning to be able to finance this publicly both on the debt and equity side. We’ve done that consistently. I really don’t think that it makes a lot of sense to go the federal route other than an option if you can’t execute in the public markets.

I don’t think, and I stress think, because I don’t know, because we don’t have a kind of classic term sheet like you would get in any other market. I don’t think it is financially advantages for the customer for us to go that route. And that’s just trying to measure the objective data before you take into consideration any kind of subjective strengths or issues or constraints or controls that might come it, so we prefer to go the public route.

Thomas J. Webb

Jimmy, you were one of the first CFOs I think over a year and a half ago to talk about the decline and usage at least relative to the prior years. Do you still see that continuing? And if so are you seeing it getting worse, any more comments or anything you have on that?

Jimmy Addison

Yeah. David, actually it’s gotten a little better. The last couple of quarters have been a positive sign but I get back to my earlier comment it’s not long enough yet to call a trend. But I am encouraged, I am encouraged by that chart I put up for the first time the day around the commercial accounts. When you got those commercial accounts, those mom and pop businesses and we’re adding – I mean we’ve got 650,000 electric customers to give you some perspective.

When you’re adding a 100 commercial accounts a month in a territory that’s relatively small that’s fairly encouraging. And so I hope that leads to a long-term trend there, I am just – I am concerned about those cliffs that we addressed early. I’m concerned about these macro issues more. If the macro issues were not on the table, I will be much more optimistic.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Just maybe for both of you on the issue of ROEs, flat ROEs, you both in for rate cases, just how much of a consistent pressure is there downward? And I guess this one for you, Thomas, is that something if you get more trackers, is there going to be consistent pressure on ROE there? Would you just not have to file anymore and there is not – not even under review?

Thomas J. Webb

I think anytime you go to your commission with a rate case you’re exposed to that without a doubt that you might have changing our ROE. There will be a time when we will be looking at that where it would be change upwards but we’re away from that maybe.

In our particular case I think it’s a situation where the commission, the governor, the state wants to send a message to everybody that Michigan is a good place to invest. So the commission has for some time tried to send the message out there by giving an ROE premium a little bit over what the average of recent rate cases are to say that, hey, this should be an attractive place to invest. And yes, when you take risk out of your model, there is always an opportunity to not have to have as much of an ROE but I think again that will be overwhelmed by the message that commissioners want to send to the public about investing at Michigan.

So we’ve asked in our particular case for 10.5% we have 10.3% today importantly. You see we are not getting in the game or we like to have 13% so we can end up with something a lot lower but better. And I think it’s a very open adult conversation that leads to good results.

Jimmy Addison

And in our case we have 10.7% today in the electric business 10.25%, 10.6% and the other two gas businesses. We filed 10.95% in the electric case. The other benchmark I would give you the only other now with the Duke-Progress merger the only other IOU in South Carolina is Duke with the two different divisions. And Duke had a case last year and settled it 10.5%.

So that’s the other benchmark I would give you around that so we certainly think that’s somewhere in that range.

Thomas J. Webb

We’re pulling for Jimmy to be successful; could they look in to the average that our regulators look at?

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Yeah.

Jimmy Addison

But I have to tell the regulators each time with the Office of Regulatory Staff, I discussed with him and not tell them but I discussed with them. On ROEs, it’s not all are created equal. I mean we are using historical test years; we don’t have trackers et cetera. I’ve discussed with most of you – about the best case we are going to get with attrition is within 50 basis points of that because we are adding customers all the time, we are adding rate base et cetera. So we’re kind of always chasing that as you’re well aware of.

Steven Fleishman – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Other questions? Well if not, gentlemen thank you very much. I appreciate, Tom. Jimmy, thank you.

Jimmy Addison

Okay. Thank you very much. Have a good one.

Question-and-Answer Session

[No Q&A session for this event]

Copyright policy: All transcripts on this site are the copyright of Seeking Alpha. However, we view them as an important resource for bloggers and journalists, and are excited to contribute to the democratization of financial information on the Internet. (Until now investors have had to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees for transcripts.) So our reproduction policy is as follows: You may quote up to 400 words of any transcript on the condition that you attribute the transcript to Seeking Alpha and either link to the original transcript or to www.SeekingAlpha.com. All other use is prohibited.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HERE IS A TEXTUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S CONFERENCE CALL, CONFERENCE PRESENTATION OR OTHER AUDIO PRESENTATION, AND WHILE EFFORTS ARE MADE TO PROVIDE AN ACCURATE TRANSCRIPTION, THERE MAY BE MATERIAL ERRORS, OMISSIONS, OR INACCURACIES IN THE REPORTING OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE AUDIO PRESENTATIONS. IN NO WAY DOES SEEKING ALPHA ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS MADE BASED UPON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED ON THIS WEB SITE OR IN ANY TRANSCRIPT. USERS ARE ADVISED TO REVIEW THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S AUDIO PRESENTATION ITSELF AND THE APPLICABLE COMPANY'S SEC FILINGS BEFORE MAKING ANY INVESTMENT OR OTHER DECISIONS.

If you have any additional questions about our online transcripts, please contact us at: transcripts@seekingalpha.com. Thank you!

Source: CMS Energy's Management Presents at Bank of America Power and Gas Leaders Conference (Transcript)
This Transcript
All Transcripts