FORT WAYNE, Ind., April 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) is successfully executing its long-term earnings growth strategy, investing in the company's utility operations and building its transmission business to support an annual earnings growth rate of 4 percent to 6 percent, according to Nicholas K. Akins, AEP's chairman, president and chief executive officer. Akins addressed shareholders at the company's annual meeting today in Fort Wayne, Ind.
"The strategic investments we're making in infrastructure and system improvements to benefit customers, along with our focus on cost discipline, will allow us to continue achieving strong financial results and a healthy dividend for our shareholders," Akins said. "More than ever, customers recognize the importance of a reliable supply of electricity, and we are committed to refining and improving the grid so we can continue to meet their needs and expectations in the future."
AEP plans to invest approximately $4 billion in capital per year from 2014 through 2016, with priority allocation to transmission. In 2013, AEP completed the largest set of transmission projects in company history, the majority designed to facilitate the development of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in Texas and the retirement of generation in the PJM Interconnection. AEP will continue to invest more than $1.5 billion per year in transmission infrastructure projects.
"Transmission presents a huge growth opportunity for AEP, especially as our nation manages the significant generation retirements occurring over the next two years and seeks to redesign the transmission system to support the changing generation mix and optimize the grid," Akins said.
In 2013, AEP completed corporate separation of its Ohio generating assets from its wires business in the state as part of Ohio's transition to a competitive generation market. AEP continues to diversify its overall generation fleet as it retires nearly 6,600 megawatts of coal-fueled generating capacity between now and 2016 due to environmental regulations and market conditions, and increases its use of natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency resources.
Between 2005 and 2013, AEP reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 21 percent, exceeding President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan target of achieving a 17 percent reduction by 2020. In addition, AEP's emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide each have been reduced by more than 80 percent since 1990, and mercury emissions have declined by nearly 60 percent since 2001.
Akins highlighted AEP's strong performance for shareholders. AEP's 2013 earnings were $3.23 per share on an operating basis (excluding special items), exceeding 2012 operating earnings per share of $3.09, an increase of 4.5 percent.
"AEP's shareholders received a 14.2 percent total return on their investment in 2013, including the dividend, which increased more than 6 percent on an annualized basis," Akins said. "We were able to eliminate AEP's share price discount to our peers in the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Index, and in fact, AEP's total shareholder return has outperformed the electric utility sector and the entire S&P 500 over the past 10-year period.
"I'm most proud of the work of our employees in 2013. They successfully completed a second consecutive year without a fatality, delivered the best environmental performance in company history, and implemented sustainable process improvements that allowed us to exceed our cost savings goals."
In business items at the annual shareholders meeting, AEP shareholders elected 12 directors. Directors re-elected to the board are: Nicholas K. Akins, 53, of Dublin, Ohio; David J. Anderson, 64, of Morristown, N.J.; J. Barnie Beasley Jr., 62, of Sylvania, Ga.; Ralph D. Crosby Jr., 66, of McLean, Va.; Linda A. Goodspeed, 52, of Crestview, Fla.; Thomas E. Hoaglin, 64, of Columbus, Ohio; Sandra Beach Lin, 56, of Flower Mound, Texas; Richard C. Notebaert, 67, of Chicago; Lionel L. Nowell III, 59, of Cos Cob, Conn.; Stephen S. Rasmussen, 61, of Columbus, Ohio; Oliver G. Richard III, 61, of Lake Charles, La.; and Sara Martinez Tucker, 59, of Dallas.
Approximately 96 percent of shares voted indicated support for AEP's executive officer compensation program.
Approximately 99 percent of shares voted ratified the firm of Deloitte & Touche LLP as AEP's independent public accounting firm for 2014.
American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5.3 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation's largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns the nation's largest electricity transmission system, a 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP's transmission system directly or indirectly serves about 10 percent of the electricity demand in the Eastern Interconnection, the interconnected transmission system that covers 38 eastern and central U.S. states and eastern Canada, and approximately 11 percent of the electricity demand in ERCOT, the transmission system that covers much of Texas. AEP's utility units operate as AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). AEP's headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.
This report made by American Electric Power and its Registrant Subsidiaries contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Although AEP and each of its Registrant Subsidiaries believe that their expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, any such statements may be influenced by factors that could cause actual outcomes and results to be materially different from those projected. Among the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are: the economic climate, growth or contraction within and changes in market demand and demographic patterns in AEP's service territory; inflationary or deflationary interest rate trends; volatility in the financial markets, particularly developments affecting the availability of capital on reasonable terms and developments impairing AEP's ability to finance new capital projects and refinance existing debt at attractive rates; the availability and cost of funds to finance working capital and capital needs, particularly during periods when the time lag between incurring costs and recovery is long and the costs are material; electric load, customer growth and the impact of retail competition, particularly in Ohio; weather conditions, including storms and drought conditions, and AEP's ability to recover significant storm restoration costs through applicable rate mechanisms; available sources and costs of, and transportation for, fuels and the creditworthiness and performance of fuel suppliers and transporters; availability of necessary generating capacity and the performance of AEP's generating plants; AEP's ability to recover increases in fuel and other energy costs through regulated or competitive electric rates; AEP's ability to build or acquire generating capacity and transmission lines and facilities (including the ability to obtain any necessary regulatory approvals and permits) when needed at acceptable prices and terms and to recover those costs (including the costs of projects that are cancelled) through applicable rate cases or competitive rates; new legislation, litigation and government regulation, including oversight of nuclear generation, energy commodity trading and new or heightened requirements for reduced emissions of sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, carbon, soot or particulate matter and other substances, or additional regulation of fly ash and similar combustion products that could impact the continued operation and cost recovery of AEP's plants and related assets; evolving public perception of the risks associated with fuels used before, during and after the generation of electricity, including nuclear fuel; a reduction in the federal statutory tax rate that could result in an accelerated return of deferred federal income taxes to customers; timing and resolution of pending and future rate cases, negotiations and other regulatory decisions, including rate or other recovery of new investments in generation, distribution and transmission service and environmental compliance; resolution of litigation; AEP's ability to constrain operation and maintenance costs; AEP's ability to develop and execute a strategy based on a view regarding prices of electricity, and other energy-related commodities; prices and demand for power that AEP generates and sells at wholesale; changes in technology, particularly with respect to new, developing or alternative sources of generation; AEP's ability to recover through rates or market prices any remaining unrecovered investment in generating units that may be retired before the end of their previously projected useful lives; volatility and changes in markets for capacity and electricity, coal, and other energy-related commodities, particularly changes in the price of natural gas; changes in utility regulation and the allocation of costs within regional transmission organizations, including PJM and SPP; the transition to market and the legal separation of generation in Ohio, including the implementation of ESPs and the successful approval, where applicable, and transfer of such Ohio generation assets and liabilities to regulated and nonregulated entities at book value; AEP's ability to successfully manage negotiations with stakeholders and obtain regulatory approval to terminate the Interconnection Agreement; changes in the creditworthiness of the counterparties with whom AEP has contractual arrangements, including participants in the energy trading market; actions of rating agencies, including changes in the ratings of AEP debt; the impact of volatility in the capital markets on the value of the investments held by AEP's pension, other postretirement benefit plans, captive insurance entity and nuclear decommissioning trust and the impact on future funding requirements; accounting pronouncements periodically issued by accounting standard-setting bodies; and other risks and unforeseen events, including wars, the effects of terrorism (including increased security costs), embargoes, cyber security threats and other catastrophic events.
SOURCE American Electric Power