Portland General Electric Co.

Portland General Preps for Transmission Investment Ramp

Feb. 16, 2024
CEO Maria Pope said the company is target ‘relatively lower-risk projects’ as it looks to meet expected demand growth.

Coming off “an investment year,” Portland General Electric Co. President and CEO Maria Pope said Feb. 16 that 2024 will be more about growth—and preparing to ramp up investments in transmission assets.

Alongside Portland General’s fourth-quarter results, Pope and CFO Joe Trpik last week also outlined new capital spending targets for the coming years that incorporate the company’s recently concluded 2024 rate case and other forecasts. Notable in those forecasts is that transmission is projected to grow steadily from an expected $170 million this year to $265 million in 2027. By that latter year, it will account for 23% of Portland General’s total capex budget; this year, that number will be in the range of 13%.

“We’re focused on relatively easy-to-execute—my colleagues would probably question that transmission is ever easy to execute—but relatively lower-risk projects within our service territory focused on repowering and increasing existing right-of-way and lines,” Pope said on a conference call with analysts.

Solid demand is driving this part of PGE’s plans: Weather-adjusted load growth is forecast to be between 2% and 3% this year and average 2% through 2027. Pope said her team expects continued demand growth from semiconductor manufacturers, which have long been an economic driver in Oregon, and also sees the building of data centers contributing significantly to demand in the coming years. Industrial deliveries climbed nearly 6% in 2023 even as residential and commercial demand slipped slightly from 2022.

PGE’s leaders expect total capex this year to be a little more than $1.3 billion, down from $1.46 billion in 2023, when the company spent more than $400 million on the Clearwater Wind project in Montana. Next year, that number is forecast to come down to $1.2 billion as various battery and storage investments near their conclusion. (These figures don’t yet include additional investments PGE will undertake upon the conclusion of an RFP process now underway.)

Portland General’s net income for the last three months of 2023 was $68 million, up from $50 million in the prior-year quarter. For the full year, the company earned $228 million (versus $233 million in 2022) on revenues of $2.92 billion ($2.65 billion).

Shares of Portland General (Ticker: POR) were up slightly to about $41 on the heels of the earnings announcement and conference call. Over the past six months, they have lost about 10% of their value, which has cut the company’s market capitalization to about $4.1 billion.

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