The forward-looking information is subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical results or results anticipated by the forward-looking information. Risk factors, which could cause results or events to differ from current expectations, are detailed under the heading "Business Risk Management" in the Corporation's MD&A for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2012, for the year ended December 31, 2011 and as otherwise disclosed in this fourth quarter 2012 earnings release. Key risk factors for 2013 include, but are not limited to: uncertainty of the impact a continuation of a low interest rate environment may have on the allowed ROE at each of the Corporation's four large Canadian regulated utilities; uncertainty regarding the treatment of certain capital expenditures at FortisAlberta under the newly implemented PBR mechanism; risks relating to the ability to close the acquisition of CH Energy Group, the timing of such closing and the realization of the anticipated benefits of the acquisition; and risk associated with the amount of compensation to be paid to Fortis for its investment in Belize Electricity that was expropriated by the GOB; and the timeliness of the receipt of the compensation and the ability of the GOB to pay the compensation owing to Fortis.
All forward-looking information in this fourth quarter 2012 earnings release is qualified in its entirety by the above cautionary statements and, except as required by law, the Corporation undertakes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking information as a result of new information, future events or otherwise after the date hereof.
Fortis is the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, serving more than 2 million gas and electricity customers. Its regulated holdings include electric utilities in five Canadian provinces and two Caribbean countries and a natural gas utility in British Columbia, Canada. Fortis owns non-regulated generation assets, primarily hydroelectric, across Canada and in Belize and Upstate New York, and hotels and commercial office and retail space in Canada. In 2012 the Corporation's electricity distribution systems met a combined peak demand of 5,244 megawatts ("MW") and its gas distribution system met a peak day demand of 1,336 terajoules. For additional information on the Corporation's business segments, refer to Note 1 to the Corporation's interim unaudited consolidated financial statements for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2012 and to the "Corporate Overview" section of the 2011 Annual MD&A.
The key goals of the Corporation's regulated utilities are to operate sound gas and electricity distribution systems; deliver safe, reliable cost-efficient energy to customers; and conduct business in an environmentally responsible manner. The Corporation's main business, utility operations, is highly regulated and the earnings of the Corporation's regulated utilities are primarily determined under cost of service ("COS") regulation.
Generally under COS regulation, the respective regulatory authority sets customer gas and/or electricity rates to permit a reasonable opportunity for the utility to recover, on a timely basis, estimated costs of providing service to customers, including a fair rate of return on a regulatory deemed or targeted capital structure applied to an approved regulatory asset value ("rate base"). The ability of a regulated utility to recover prudently incurred costs of providing service and earn the regulator-approved rate of return on common shareholder's equity ("ROE") and/or rate of return on rate base assets ("ROA") depends on the utility achieving the forecasts established in the rate-setting processes. As such, earnings of regulated utilities are generally impacted by: (i) changes in the regulator-approved allowed ROE and/or ROA; (ii) changes in rate base; (iii) changes in energy sales or gas delivery volumes; (iv) changes in the number and composition of customers; (v) variances between actual expenses incurred and forecast expenses used to determine revenue requirements and set customer rates; and (vi) timing differences within an annual financial reporting period, between when actual expenses are incurred and when they are recovered from customers in rates. When forward test years are used to establish revenue requirements and set base customer rates, these rates are not adjusted as a result of actual COS being different from that which is estimated, other than for certain prescribed costs that are eligible to be deferred on the balance sheet. In addition, the Corporation's regulated utilities, where applicable, are permitted by their respective regulatory authority to flow through to customers, without markup, the cost of natural gas, fuel and/or purchased power through base customer rates and/or the use of rate stabilization and other mechanisms.
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