Emera’s 2022 adjusted profit was up a healthy 17.6% over 2021. That works out to $850 million or $3.20 per common share, compared with $723 million or $2.81 per common share in 2021.
Emera is the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, which recently saw the regulator approve a 14% rate hike over two years for consumers here.
Nova Scotia Power continues to become a smaller portion of Emera’s business. The North American energy conglomerate has $40 billion in assets that include electrical utilities, pipelines, and natural gas distribution companies. Emera had revenues of $7.5 billion last year.
About 60% of Emera’s earnings flow from Tampa Electric, a growing and profitable utility in Florida where Emera has been experimenting with solar power and microgrid battery storage in suburban neighbourhoods. Tampa Electric is seeing its customer base grow at the same time it won a 13% increase in residential rates last year.
According to Thursday’s release from Emera reporting its year-end results:
Adjusted earnings per share from Emera’s regulated power, natural gas, and gas trading utilities increased 14% for the last quarter of 2022 and 12% year-over-year. Emera earned bigger profits from Tampa Electric, New Mexico Gas (“NMGC”) and Peoples Gas (“PGS”), and a weaker Canadian dollar. These gains were dampened by lower earnings at Nova Scotia Power (“NSPI”) which saw profits in the fourth quarter plunge due to costs triggered by outages from Hurricane Fiona in September.
Year over year, Nova Scotia Power’s adjusted net income or profit dropped 31% from $67 million in 2021 to $46 million in 2022.
In the news release, Emera said, “lower profits at NSPI in 2022 were due to higher operating and maintenance costs for storm restoration, information technology, power generation, regulatory affairs and higher depreciation.”
The biggest cost was cleaning up after Hurricane Fiona, estimated to be in the ballpark of $100 million, a bill the company will eventually ask the UARB to send to consumers.
The general rate application process, including the public hearing portion, usually costs the power company a minimum of $1 million. And consumers got virtually the same size rate hike —14% over two years — as proposed a year ago.
“We successfully executed a $2.6 billion capital plan focused on delivering cleaner and more reliable energy for our customers, leading to strong earnings growth and supporting continued dividend increases for our shareholders,” reported Scott Balfour, president and CEO of Emera and chair of Nova Scotia Power, in Thursday’s news release.
“In 2023, we will remain focused on leading a balanced energy transition at a pace that is as cost effective as possible for customers and supports system reliability.”
Emera shareholders have no reason to lose any sleep as long as Nova Scotia ratepayers are doing the heavy lifting through higher power rates.
Atlantic Loop still a work in progress
Emera CEO Scott Balfour told financial analysts during a conference call Thursday that Emera remains “engaged and confident” the federal government will make a significant investment in the Atlantic Loop, which would deliver hydroelectricity from Quebec to the Maritimes.
Balfour has repeatedly said Nova Scotia Power will be unable to close coal-fired generating stations by the 2030 federal deadline without a firm source of renewable energy from the Atlantic Loop. The cost has been estimated at $5.5 billion. Balfour said Emera remains “actively engaged” in discussions at the table among utilities and provincial governments. But he said Emera is precluded from making an investment in the loop because of legislation passed by the Houston government last fall that will increase its borrowing cost. (Balfour took home more than $8 million in salary and stock options last year).
Balfour also defended the Maritime Link project, which has under-delivered the amount of hydro from Muskrat Falls promised back in 2013. He said over its 35-year life, the link will provide significant savings. More surprisingly, Balfour claims the link has “saved” Nova Scotia Power customers $100 million so far.
This seems at odds with information that came out at a public hearing into power rates last fall. Problems continue to plague the Labrador Island Link (LIL), which moves electricity between Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Newfoundland and has restricted the flow to Nova Scotia. Emera owns a significant portion of that LIL transmission system, which is majority-owned by Newfoundland & Labrador Hydro.
During the public hearing last fall, Nova Scotia Power filed evidence estimating further delays in 2022-2023 that will increase replacement fuel costs by $100 million. Ratepayers would have to pick that up. And evidence filed by the consumer advocate showed ratepayers have already paid approximately $200 million in extra fuel costs because of delays from Muskrat Falls.
That makes Balfour’s claim of $100 million in savings somewhat suspect.