American Electric Power (AEP) takes its slice of the US power pie out of Middle America. The holding company is one of the largest power generators and distributors in the US. AEP owns the nation's largest electricity transmission system, a network of almost 40,000 miles. It also has 230,000 miles of distribution lines. Its electric utilities have 5.3 million customers in 11 states and have about 32,000 MW of largely coal-fired generating capacity. AEP is a top wholesale energy company; it markets electricity in the US. To raise cash, in 2015 the company agreed to sell its commercial barging operations that transport liquids, coal, and dry bulk commodities on the Ohio, Illinois, and lower Mississippi Rivers.
The company's electric utility operating companies provide generation, transmission, and distribution services to 5.3 million retail customers in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
AEP operates through four operating segments:
Vertically Integrated Utilities: Generation, transmission and distribution of electricity for sale to retail and wholesale customers through assets owned and operated by AEGCo, APCo, I&M, KGPCo, KPCo, PSO, SWEPCo, and WPCo;
Transmission and Distribution Utilities: Transmission and distribution of electricity for sale to retail and wholesale customers through assets owned and operated by OPCo, TCC, and TNC;
Generation & Marketing: Nonregulated generation in ERCOT and PJM and marketing, risk management, and retail activities in ERCOT, PJM and MISO;
AEP Transmission Holdco: Development, construction and operation of transmission facilities through investments in wholly-owned transmission only subsidiaries and transmission only joint ventures. These investments have PUCT-approved or FERC-approved returns on equity; and
It had a fifth segment AEP River Operations: Commercial barging operations that transport liquids, coal, and dry bulk commodities on the Ohio, Illinois, and lower Mississippi Rivers. But in 2015 the company agreed to sell AEP River Operations LLC for $550 million to American Commercial Lines.
Sales and Marketing
The company sells power from its generation facilities into the spot market and other competitive power markets on a contractual basis. It also enters into contracts to purchase and sell electricity, natural gas, emission allowances and coal as part of its power marketing and energy trading operations.
In 2014 AEP's net revenues increased by 11% due to higher sales from AEP Transmission Holdco segment, Transmission and Distribution Utilities segment and AEP River Operations segment.
Transmission Revenues increased $114 million due to higher returns from projects placed in-service by wholly-owned transmission subsidiaries.
Transmission and Distribution Utilities revenues increased due a growth in sales associated with Ohio rate riders/trackers and PJM revenues; an increase in TCC and TNC revenues (due to the recovery of ERCOT transmission expenses); increased transmission revenues from customers who have switched to alternative CRES providers; rate increases for customers in the PJM region; and higher transmission investment.
AEP River Operations segment revenues grew in 2014 due to a 28% increase in barge freight revenues, driven by strong barge freight demand for export grain; a rise in northbound imports of fertilizer, salt, and steel; and increased shipments of domestic coal.
In 2014 AEP's net income increased by 10% due higher revenues and the absence of asset impairments and other related charges, partially offset by higher purchased electricity for resale expenses.
That year the company's net cash provided by operating activities increased by 12%.
AEP has scaled back its unregulated non-retail operations in order to focus on its more fiscally reliable regulated businesses. The firm has also sold its independent power production operations and its European trading operations, but it continues to participate in wholesale energy transactions in regions of the US where it owns assets.
The company’s business plan calls for extensive investment in capital improvements and additions, including the installation of environmental upgrades and retrofits, construction of additional transmission facilities, modernizing existing infrastructure as well as other initiatives.
AEP has established joint ventures with other electric utility companies to develop, build, and own transmission assets that seek to improve reliability and market efficiency and provide transmission access to remote generation sources in North America. For instance, Transource Energy, LLC (Transource) is a joint venture between AEPTHC (86.5%) and Great Plains Energy (13.5%).
Although only a small percentage of its power generation comes from renewables (such as wind and hydro), the company is investing heavily in wind power to ramp up its clean energy sources in response to carbon reduction legislation in the states it serves. Seeking to run cleaner, more efficient power plants to comply with regulatory clean air and water standards, AEP has also earmarked $1.2 billion through 2020 for further upgrades of its coal-fired generating plants. (I&M has announced plans to build and operate five solar generation facilities, adding another emission-free source of power to it's generation portfolio, which already includes nuclear, wind, and hydro).
AEP announced plans to retire several coal-fired generation plants or units of plants during 2015.
In 2015, Eight electric utilities and energy companies announced an initiative to provide improved responses to major events affecting the electric transmission grid by giving transmission-owning entities access to domestically warehoused long lead-time critical equipment. Affiliates of American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, Ever source Energy, Exelon, Great Plains Energy, and Southern Company have signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue development of Grid Assurance, a limited liability company that expects to offer subscribers cost-effective solutions for enhancing grid resiliency and protecting customers from prolonged transmission outages.
In 2014 AEP Ohio filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio an expand its purchase power agreement in order to provide customers with more stable electricity prices during periods of market volatility.
In 2013 AEP received the regulatory go-ahead to separate its AEP Ohio-owned generation assets from its Ohio distribution and transmission operations and complete transfer of that generation to AEP’s competitive generation company (AEP Generation Resources) and regulated affiliates Appalachian Power and Kentucky Power.
To create a more customer friendly service, in 2013 AEP launched a new, enhanced version of its website at aepenergy.com., optimized for mobile devices.