Southern Company 4Q14 Earnings Call Notes

This post is part of a series of posts called “Company Notes.” These posts contain quotes and exhibits from earnings calls, conference presentations, analyst days and SEC filings. Full transcripts can be found at Seeking Alpha

460 MW of solar

“Southern Power also had a 131 megawatt solar plant under development in Georgia that is expected to begin operation in late 2016. With completion of this facility, Southern Power is expected to own more than 460 megawatts of solar capacity, and is clearly becoming an industry leader in the advancement and operation of this important technology.’

$700 per car oil dividend

“Both residential and commercial sales should benefit from lower oil prices, which some have characterized as a $700 per car oil dividend”

A lot of strong employment growth

“We are looking at a lot of strong employment growth. I think we’ve seen that across the board, especially in the Southeast we’ve actually outstrip the U.S. growth rate and employment. And our manufacturing employment is also stronger than the U.S. As the economy continues to improve, as consumers consume the benefit of this oil dividend that we mentioned in our script, we think household income is also going to be helped by the portion of that household income that’s disposable.

That will translate, we think, into more commercial sales and hopefully will translate into more household formations, which I believe jumped pretty strongly in the fourth quarter nationally. We saw a pretty strong customer growth in our fourth quarter period as well, about 10,000 new customers on the residential side. So there is a number of elements there that we’re looking at.”

Natural gas prices are very volatile, switching to gas is not a panacea

“If you dial back to 2014, remember we have switched a lot away from coal to natural gas. And one of the things that we always warn people was that gas was more volatile and there were certain risks around it. It was not a panacea.

What we saw in the year 2014 was that we generated about the same amount of energy with coal as we did gas, about 40% each. Why was that? Because we had the fuel flexibility during polar vortex one and two to switch off spiking gas and be able to run our much cheaper coal fleet. In fact, over the year we saved about $125 million of fuel savings, because we had that flexibility. So let’s keep in mind what’s trying to happen in regulatory space in terms of shutting down coal in America.”

Looking to invest in gas pipelines

“Now, how does that impact kind of our appetite for gas infrastructure? I had mentioned to you all before that we could see ourselves getting involved in gas pipelines now, because gas is much more kind of synergistic with the rest of our business, as opposed to say where we were five, six, seven years ago.

One of the things we find is that there are lots of price disparities of gas transportation, say, from the east to west side of our system. We’ve been able to evaluate a lot of opportunities. We’re seeking those out aggressively.”

In the long run for finance there are tricks but no magic

“So you guys have heard the old saying that — I believe in the long run view of finance, there’s lots of tricks, but there is no magic.”

Our plan was for 0.7% sales growth

“Let me just kind of pick at that a little. Our plan was set last year at 0.7% sales growth and we actually had 0.9%. The difference was the fact that industrial was a blockbuster year at 3.3%, relative to weather normal flat elsewhere.”