Feb. 25--El Paso Electric's profit fell 2.5 percent last year due to reduced sales revenues tied to mild October weather, increased solar-power use at Fort Bliss, and the lingering effects of a 2012 rate reduction, the company reported Monday.
But the utility continued to post strong returns.
It had a profit of $88.6 million, or $2.20 per share, in 2013. However, that's $2.3 million less than in 2012.
It's fourth quarter profit declined $3.6 million, or a decrease of 75 percent from fourth quarter 2012, to $1.2 million, or 3 cents per share.
"It's unfortunate we didn't have higher earnings, but our (positive) story is still consistent," said Nathan Hirschi, El Paso Electric chief financial officer. "We saw 1.3 percent customer growth in the fourth quarter and the entire year," which is normal growth for the company in the last several years, he said.
The utility had 393,886 customers in Texas and New Mexico at the end of 2013.
The company's 2013 electric sales, not including off-system sales outside its service area, declined almost 1 percent from 2012, to $558.7 million.
A substantial part of that decline came from El Paso area commercial and industrial customers and was tied to the lingering effects of a rate reduction that took effect in May 2012, Hirschi said from New York, where he and other company executives held the company's annual meeting with Wall Street analysts. The company's fourth-quarter conference call on Monday originated from New York.
The company's fourth-quarter electric sales, not including off-system sales, declined 2.3 percent compared to a year ago to $113.1 million.
The utility lost about $2.5 million in sales in October alone, mostly due to the mild weather, which reduced customers' use of air conditioners, but also because of the federal government shutdown, which reduced electric use at Fort Bliss and other federal government facilities in the first half of October, Hirschi told analysts during Monday's conference call.
The utility also lost about $1 million in sales from Fort Bliss last year, in part because the Army post is now using more solar power and buying less electricity from the company, he reported in a phone interview after the conference call.
The company's off-system sales increased 13.8 percent in 2013 to $82.8 million. Profits from those sales grew to $14.6 million, of which $13 million went to utility customers through decreased fuel charges.
In other developments:
--Four Corners plant: The company will stop getting power from the coal-powered Four Corners power plant in New Mexico by July 2016, when the company's 45-year-old partnership in the plant ends. El Paso Electric has a 7 percent ownership, valued at $25 million, in the plant. It's now in talks with Arizona Public Service, or APS, which manages the plant, about APS buying El Paso Electric's share, the official reported. That would allow the plant to continue operations with its other owners, the official said.
--Montana plant: Company officials hope to get an Environmental Protection Agency air permit for its planned $354 millionMontana power plant by late summer, which would allow two of four-planned generating units to be completed by mid 2015. The EPA permit process has been delayed because the Sierra Club is contesting portions of it, a company official reported. The state has issued air permits for the plant located in far east El Paso County, the official reported.
El Paso Electric's stock closed Monday at $36.17 per share, down 74 cents per share, on the New York Stock Exchange.
Vic Kolenc may be reached at 915-546-6421.
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